After thrilling 28,968 adoring fans with a parade over Churchill Downs’ track and trips to the paddock and G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle on Saturday night, Triple Crown champ American Pharoah got a day of rest and relaxation Sunday.
“He just walked this morning,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “He got a day off today. It was a long night for him, and there’s nothing pressing right now.”
Barnes said that the Zayat Stables’ homebred son of Pioneer of the Nile would resume galloping Monday and continue to do so through Wednesday before returning to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s base in Southern California on Thursday morning.
STEPHEN FOSTER FINSIHERS EXIT RACE IN GOOD ORDER – The top performers in Saturday night’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE (GI) exited the race in good order according to their connections.
Foster winner Noble Bird, owned by John C. Oxley, looked good on Sunday morning, according to assistant trainer Norman Casse, who oversees his father Mark Casse’s string at Churchill Downs.
“He looked good,” Casse said. “We just got done looking at him [and] he looks a little tired and a little jarred up, but he’s sound and we’ll give him a few days off. He looks like he put in a big effort last night and plus it was late last night so maybe he’s tired because he didn’t get any sleep last night. Most importantly he is sound and his legs looked clean.”
The 4-year-old son of Birdstone could make his start in the $1.25 million Whitney Handicap (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 8.
“We’ll have to take a good look at where we’ll go next with him but we’re super proud,” Casse said. “We’re going to Saratoga this summer so I would say that’s where we’re leaning right now. But if he’s not doing well he won’t go. He’ll have to be training well to run in a race like that.”
The Stephen Foster was Noble Bird’s first graded stakes victory in five starts this year which included a well-beaten sixth in an allowance at Oaklawn, two allowance victories at Oaklawn and Keeneland, and a close second to Protonico in the Alysheba (GII) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Noble Bird has a guaranteed spot in the Oct. 31 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Keeneland because the Stephen Foster was a “Win and You’re In” event.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lea, the 9-5 favorite, was a late-closing second behind Noble Bird and was making his first start since a game third-place effort behind Prince Bishop and last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup (GI). The lightly-raced 6-year-old son of First Samurai came out of the race in good order.
"It looks like he came out just fine,” said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “I think he ran his race. He was tired naturally, but he ate up last night. He was fine this morning.”
Lea is scheduled to leave for Saratoga on Monday afternoon where he will likely make a start in the Whitney.
Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Hoppertunity was third in his first start since Feb. 7 San Antonio Invitational (GII) at Santa Anita.
“[Hoppertunity] came back in good shape,” trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “We got a race in him so we’ll look for something down the road for him. It was kind of a speed track. He was back a little ways and he made a move.”
Barnes said that Hoppertunity would ship back to California and likely make his next start out there.
WinStar Farm’s Commissioner was a well-beaten sixth in the Foster after winning the May 15 Pimlico Special (GIII) in his prior start. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s assistant Adele Bellinger reported that the 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy would likely get a week or two break at WinStar Farm before returning to his trainer’s base in New York.
ISLAND TOWN, FRIVOLOUS IN GOOD SHAPE AFTER VICTORIES – Six Column Stables’ Island Town exited his gutty performance against heavily-favored Fame and Power in good order, according to trainer Ian Wilkes.
“He looked good, no problems at all,” Wilkes said.
The 3-year-old son of Hard Spun was a horse that Wilkes was always confident about even as a 2-year-old when the horse was still a bit green.
“He’s always shown that talent; he’s just taken a long time to come around,” Wilkes said. “I think he’s a seriously-talented horse and he’s shown a lot of maturity. He just wasn’t ready this winter. I thought I had a horse that could be a campaigner in the classics but he just didn’t come so I waited on him and he came. Hard work pays off.”
Following the race on Saturday night, Wilkes stated that the $500,000 Indiana Derby (GII) would be a “logical spot” for the horse, but is open to all options.
“That [Indiana Derby] is an option,” he said. “But the good thing about a good 3-year-old is that you have plenty of options.”
G. Watts Humphrey’s Frivolous came out of the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Thorntons (GII) in good shape according to trainer Vicki Oliver.
“She came out very well and she looked really good this morning,” Oliver said via telephone.
The $750,000 Delaware Handicap on July 18 at Delaware Park and the $750,000 Personal Ensign Handicap (GI) on Aug. 29 at Saratoga are two potential spots for the 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker’s next start.
“We haven’t really decided on anything yet,” Oliver said. “[We’ll] probably nominate to both of them and see how each race comes up.”
BIG NIGHTS FOR BRIDGMOHAN, LEPAROUX – Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan had a big night Saturday winning three races on Churchill Downs 11-race card, including the featured event, the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) aboard John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird ($11.40). Bridgmohan’s other two victories came aboard Awesome Sky ($3.40) and Top Clearance ($3). On Sunday morning, Bridgmohan boarded a plane for Toronto where he was named to three horses at Woodbine, all for trainer Mark Casse, including Conquest Stables’ Conquest Curlinate in the $150,000 Plate Trial.
Saturday also was a big night for jockey Julien Leparoux, who was victorious in two of the four stakes races. The 31-year-old native of Senlis, France triumphed aboard Prado’s Sweet Ride ($21) and Island Town ($13.60) in the Regret and Matt Winn, respectively. Like Bridgmohan, Leparoux also is headed to Canada to ride Danzig Moon, fifth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), in the Plate Trial for Casse. Leparoux began Sunday with 30 winners at the Spring Meet and was second to Corey Lanerie who had 34 victories to lead all riders.