Fresh off a most impressive win in the Pimlico Special (Grade III), WinStar Farm LLC’s Revolutionary is seeking his first Grade I victory in Saturday night’s $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) and has been made the 2-1 favorite in a talented field of nine older horses.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Revolutionary was third in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and fifth in the Belmont (GI) before his owners opted to give him the rest of 2013 off in order to point to a 4-year-old campaign.
“Like a lot of horses that go on the Triple Crown trail, after running in two legs it just kind of made him lose a little bit of weight and he ran a bit of a flat race in the Belmont,” Pletcher said. “We felt like he was the kind of horse that could improve as a 4-year-old who could physically mature, develop and come back a bigger, better and stronger horse.
“With the timing of the Belmont being run in June, if you give a horse a meaningful vacation of 45-60 days, it basically eliminates any big race options for the rest of the year. So we just felt like he needed a break and giving it to him then would allow him to come back and compete as a 4-year-old and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
Revolutionary won an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park in his 4-year-old debut before running seventh in the Donn Handicap (GI) and second to Will Take Charge in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) prior to the Pimlico Special win.
“The horse shows up every time,” WinStar Farm President/CEO and Racing Manager Elliot Walden said. “The only race he didn’t was the Donn, which was unfortunate because that was a Grade I. But I think he’s a very consistent horse and I think that’s one of his greatest attributes.”
The 4-year-old son of War Pass was 30 lengths off the lead after the opening quarter-mile in the Pimlico Special but furiously rallied late in the stretch to edge fellow Foster contender Prayer for Relief by a neck.
“I think that was a little unusual for him to drop that far back,” Pletcher said. “He’s normally a horse who likes to settle but we’re not looking to get that far behind this time. We’re just hoping for some pace.”
Revolutionary will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and joins Champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge, Departing, Mylute, Golden Ticket, Long River and Prayer for Relief in a battle of true closers competing for Grade I glory in the Foster.
Randy Patterson’s Moonshine Mullin has been the only Foster contender to demonstrate the ability to win a graded stakes race from gate-to-wire, taking the Alysheba (GII) in such fashion on Kentucky Oaks Day for trainer Randy Morse.
Jaguar Paw has shown some early speed in past races, but has yet to win a race from gate-to-wire.
“I think Revolutionary is a horse that is tactical enough to handle anything,” Walden said. “It’s a little funny saying that when he was behind 30 lengths in his last race, but if they go fast; he’s going to be back. If they go slow, he’s going to be closer. So he’s going to run his same speed the first half a mile and if they just run slower, he’ll just be closer, which will give him less to do. I’m not that concerned about it.”
Revolutionary will break from the rail for the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster, the eighth of 11 races on Churchill’s “Downs After Dark” Saturday card, with an approximate post time of 9:39 p.m. EDT.
“I feel good,” Walden said. “He’s training great, we’re excited about the race and it looks like he’s improving. The goal for him all year is to try and win a Grade-1, and we feel like we’re in a spot where we have a reasonable chance to do that.”
A LITTLE BIT SASSY, ISTANFORD SET FOR REGRET REMATCH
Despite capturing the Arlington Classic (GIII) in her last outing, Sam Alley, Janet Alley, Dawn Thrash and Ike Thrash’s Istanford has been made the 9-2 second-choice to Ramona S. Bass LLC’s A Little Bit Sassy (7-2) in Saturday night’s 1 1/8-mile Regret (GIII) over the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs.
In the Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank, A Little Bit Sassy stalked Istanford in second through the opening three quarters of a mile, was able to command the lead in the stretch and kicked clear of the Michael Stidham-trained Istanford by 1 ¼ lengths at the wire on Kentucky Oaks Day.
While the Michael Matz-conditioned A Little Bit Sassy has been home training at Fair Hill in Maryland since the Edgewood, Istanford was busy defeating male competition gate-to-wire, taking her first graded stakes victory in the 1 1/16-mile Arlington Classic on May 24.
“She came out of the Edgewood really well,” Stidham’s Churchill Downs assistant Chris Davis said of Istanford. “She worked great and it looked like a good spot since she’s stabled up at Arlington. She got to stay there and run out of her stall, so we thought with a $150,000 race, we’ll take a shot. The race didn’t come up super tough and we got a good pace scenario. They sat off of her and she got to dictate her pace and kicked home.”
Of the Regret field of 10, no filly has previously displayed the ability to stalk the pace quite like A Little Bit Sassy did in the Edgewood.
“She’s doing fine, she came out of the Edgewood great and we’ll just see how she is going that extra sixteenth of a mile,” Matz said. “I hope she’ll probably just stay right off the pace again and make a run at it.
“It could be a little tougher this time around, you just never know. I don’t think we should be too far behind her (Istanford). But our horse has been doing well, so we’ll see.”
Subsequently, few Regret contenders have shown a desire to take the early lead as Istanford has in her last four outings, which could make for a similar early setup between her and A Little Bit Sassy in the Regret as seen in the Edgewood.
“It’d be nice if she could go out there and set a nice pace for herself,” Davis said. “Going a mile and an eighth might be a little tougher, but she’s doing great. Obviously she’s so much better on the grass and so hopefully she can continue to improve.”
Istanford will break from post position seven with jockey James Graham and A Little Bit Sassy will be ridden by Luis Saez from post four in Saturday night’s Regret, the ninth of 11 races with an approximate post time of 10:11 p.m. EDT.