Following an exhilarating night of first-class racing Saturday under the Twin Spires, the equine stars of Stephen Foster Handicap Night at Churchill Downs were reported by their connections to be in good order.
In one of the most impressive performances of the year, Randy Patterson’s Moonshine Mullin scored a 1 ¾-length victory in the $552,500 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) and trainer Randy Morse said he came out of the race well.
"He came out great, really great,” Morse said. “We’re just going to let this win sink in and we’ll see what happens next.”
Morse did mention he would probably take a string of horses back to Saratoga upon the completion of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, but did not say if Moonshine Mullin was pointed to a specific race.
The two Grade I events for handicap horses this summer at Saratoga are the Aug. 2 Whitney Invitational Handicap and Aug. 30 Woodward, both run at 1 1/8 miles.
Moonshine Mullin was followed in order by Will Take Charge, Departing, Mylute, Golden Ticket, Revolutionary, Long River, Prayer for Relief and Jaguar Paw.
“He came out of the race fine,” Will Take Charge conditioner D. Wayne Lukas said. “We’ll take a very serious look at the Whitney. This horse has an affinity for the Saratoga track.”
“Departing is fine,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “We were pleased with his effort and we will talk to the owners to see what’s in store next.”
Molly Morgan, Tapiture and Aurelia’s Belle also captured graded stakes wins on the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” racing program that attracted a crowd of 21,671.
Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan took the $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), starting the race in last of six through the first half-mile, while Ondine got out to an early lead. Molly Morgan passed Flashy American to get to fifth after six furlongs and gained ground by slipping through along the rail around the stretch to take the lead, and drew clear by four lengths at the wire with jockey Corey Lanerie at the reigns.
“We were very pleased with her effort and her trip last night,” Molly Morgan’s trainer Dale Romans said. “This opens the door to some interesting options for her in the future; I can’t say for sure what those might be yet, but she came out great.”
After finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Tapiture bounced back to take the $109,400 Matt Winn (GIII) by two lengths for trainer Steve Asmussen.
“He was pretty impressive last night,” Asmussen said. “But he came out of the race fine and everything is good here. The Aug. 2 West Virginia Derby (GII) is a possibility for where we might take him next.”
With a rough trip in the final stages of the $111,900 Regret (GIII), James F. Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle was placed first by a disqualification of A Little Bit Sassy for trainer Wayne Catalano. A Little Bit Sassy was disqualified from first and placed fourth for veering out and impeding Kiss Moon and Aurelia’s Belle.
“She’s a very nice horse,” Catalano’s assistant Miguel Hernandez said. “She walked this morning and is sound; everything’s good.”
Following last night’s race, Catalano was unsure what the next start for Aurelia’s Belle would be but that he would most likely keep her on the turf.
WELL-BRED TAKE CHARGE BRANDI HEADS LIST OF 23 DEBUTANTE NOMS
Of the 23 2-year-old fillies nominated for Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000-added Debutante at Churchill Downs, perhaps one of the most intriguing is Take Charge Brandi, an unraced daughter of Giant’s Causeway whose dam is a half-sister to 3-year-old Champion Will Take Charge and multiple graded stakes winner Take Charge Indy; and granddam is multiple Grade I winner Take Charge Lady.
Take Charge Brandi is owned and trained by the same connections of Will Take Charge, Willis D. Horton and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who have some high expectations for the filly.
“She’s doing great,” Lukas said. “We’re not quite sure if she’s ready for that step forward, but we’re very high on her.”
Horton purchased Take Charge Brandi for $450,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, less than two weeks after Will Take Charge collected his first Grade I victory in the Travers.
"It’s pretty special to have one out of the same family and she’s been training really well,” Lukas said. “But like they always say, don’t tell me, show me.”
Take Charge Brandi breezed a half mile in :48 Sunday morning. Before that, she breezed three furlongs from the gate in :35.60, which was the fastest of 20 workers at the distance on June 7.
Likely Debutante starters include Little Bear Racing, Ingrid Mason and Melissa Wilkey’s Irish Nuggets for co-owner/trainer Mason; Robert G. Luttrell’s Promise Me Silver for trainer Bret Calhoun; David Ingordo’s Rousanne trained by Steve Asmussen; John C. Oxley’s Unbridled Reward for trainer Mark Casse; and Blue Checker Thoroughbreds LLC’s Zip It Kim trained by John Hancock.
The six-furlong Debutante is the first stakes test for 2-year-old fillies offered by Churchill Downs. Last year’s winner was Fiftyshadesofgold, who came back as a 3-year-old to win the 2014 Eight Belles (GIII) on Kentucky Oaks Day.
RESERVE YOUR SEATS FOR THE ‘TERRACE LOUNGE’ ON FRIDAY NIGHT
This Friday, June 21, Churchill Downs again will transform the new Grandstand Terrace into the “Terrace Lounge,” a 21-and-over lounge-style environment that features a live DJ, club/lounge style lighting and décor, premium food and cocktails and use of the grandstand terrace’s patio and stadium style seating.
Tickets to Downs After Dark in the lounge are $25 and can be reserved in advance with a limited total capacity. The Terrace Lounge will be available at all three Downs After Dark events this Spring, with the hopes of continuing it again in the future if successful.
For $99 per ticket, Churchill Downs is also offering Terrace Lounge VIP Cabana seating, which includes an open bar from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m., a premium buffet designed by Chef David Danielson and concierge wait service. These tickets reserve special plush seating for groups of any number within one of the four covered cabanas at the end of the Grandstand Terrace.