Randy Patterson's Moonshine Mullin pressed the pace under a snug hold, took the lead with three-eighths of a mile to run and turned back bids by Departing and champion Will Take Charge en route to a 1 ¾-length win in Saturday night's 33rd running of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I), the featured event on a spectacular "Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka" night racing program before 21,671 at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Randy Morse and ridden by Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, Moonshine Mullin covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.66 to beat 5-2 favorite Will Take Charge. Departing was another neck back in third.
This was the second Foster upset for Borel, who piloted 91-1 shocker Seek Gold to victory in 2006.
Claimed in November at Remington Park for $40,000, Moonshine Mullin became the first horse to complete a sweep of Churchill Downs' two spring stakes events for older horses: the $342,000 Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GII) and the Stephen Foster, which was run six weeks later.
The Foster was his fifth victory in a row and was worth was worth $328,848, which made Moonshine Mullin a millionaire.
The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Albert the Great out of the Distant View mare Mullen Road has banked $644,012 for Patterson and his team since the claim. Overall, he boasts a record of 32-9-4-5-$1,014,361.
Moonshine Mullin beat five millionaires in the field of nine of older horses, and earned an automatic entry into the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 1 because this was the year's first Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Classic Division Challenge Race. His $100,000 Classic pre-entry and entry fees will be waived and he'll receive a $10,000 travel stipend if they decide to make that race their year-end goal.
Similar to his May 2 Alysheba upset at odds of 6-1, Moonshine Mullin was forwardly placed. He prompted the pace set by 80-1 outsider Jaguar Paw, who ran the first quarter mile in :23.98 and the half in :47.91. He assumed command on the final turn and dug in to meet the bid of Departing at the eighth pole. He put away that rival and gamely edged clear to hold back a late run by Will Take Charge.
Moonshine Mullin, who carried 118 pounds, returned $22, $9 and $5.20 at odds of 10-1. Will Take Charge, the 123-pound high weight ridden by Gary Stevens, paid $4.60 and $3.40. Departing was third under Robby Albarado and 118 pounds and paid $3.60.
Mylute, Golden Ticket, Revolutionary, Long River, Prayer for Relief and Jaguar Paw completed the order of finish.
Moonshine Mullin was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Russ Beran and Dick Johnson.
The Stephen Foster was the marquee event among five graded stakes races scheduled on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP PRESENTED BY ABU DHABI QUOTES
CALVIN BOREL, jockey of MOONSHINE MULLIN (winner) - "Randy (Morse) has been doing so well with him. The first morning I was out on him working him after the Alysheba, he didn't really work like I thought he should have. But boy its funny, when a horse peaks, they peak. When I came back and worked him again about five days ago he was a totally different horse, like he had gotten his seat back under him. I rode him with a lot of confidence today. We were stepping up today, I know we beat some of these same horses a few weeks back and early on I was afraid it may have taken too much out of him, but as we got closer, Randy had him ready to go. He's a nice, nice horse."
RANDY MORSE, trainer of MOONSHINE MULLIN (winner) - "He's a good horse and he's been training very well. He trained better leading up to this race than he did the race before. He drew a really good post, which meant a lot. I usually tend to be pretty conservative but when he drew the three-post with how well as he's trained the past week, I was pretty sure we were going to run him."
On Moonshine Mullin's next start - "If he never wins another race, it's been a great ride. But as good as he's doing, who knows? You never know, that's one thing about this sport, they come from everywhere. I'm very happy with him though."
RANDY PATTERSON, owner of MOONSHINE MULLIN (winner) - "It was awesome, absolutely awesome. This was my first Grade I win, the Alysheba was my first Grade II win and coming down that stretch today I was just like, 'this is not supposed to happen with a claiming horse.' But he'll stay right here, I don't have any idea what will be next for him."
GARY STEVENS, jockey on WILL TAKE CHARGE (runner-up) - "He struggled a little bit the first sixteenth of a mile - the track was getting away from him a little bit. But he really got into a nice rhythm down the backside. He gave up a lot of ground around the turn, but he seemed to be happy there. He showed up today. I mean we spotted the winner 10 pounds and he was still getting with it the last sixteenth of a mile."
D. WAYNE LUKAS, trainer of WILL TAKE CHARGE (runner-up) - "He had a little trouble getting hold of the racetrack early and he couldn't get going. But once he got rolling he looked pretty good."
Q: He clearly bounced back from the disappointing run in the Alysheba - any thoughts on what happened in that one? "I think he just had one of those off days. He got pinned on the inside and he doesn't like that. But a mile and a quarter is his best distance and that's what they all are now."
Q: Do you have a target for his next start? "The Whitney."
AL STALL JR., trainer of DEPARTING (third) - "He ran great. It was only our second dance of the year - he really needed that race. We're right where we need to be for the rest of the year. He got a shade heavy, which he's supposed to that last eighth of a mile. I think we're in good shape."
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey on DEPARTING (third) - "He was in a great spot. He was where I anticipated him to be. He was kind enough and he put in his patented run at the three-eighths pole and he hung on as long as he could. It was just his second race off the layoff and I think he's put us right where we need to be now."
MIKE SMITH, jockey on REVOLUTIONARY (sixth) - "I didn't have a straw in my path, but he didn't give me the run that he has been. As to why, I don't know. He just didn't give me that good turn of foot."
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