Two-time champion Royal Delta, the 2-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 38th running of the $175,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (Grade II), highlights the undercard of the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on the Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program at Churchill Downs.
The Fleur de Lis Presented by Etihad Airways, for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, is one of five graded stakes races on Saturday’s million-dollar program that also includes the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and the $100,000-added President of United Arab Emirates Cup (GI) for Arabian 4-year-olds and up at 1/16 miles.
Besilu Stables LLC and Benjamin Leon Jr.’s Royal Delta cruised to an eight-length victory in last year’s Fleur de Lis and now seeks to join Likely Exchange (1978, ’80) as the only two-time winners of the race. Like last year, the Fleur de Lis will be Royal Delta’s return to racing following a March journey to Dubai. In her most recent try at the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI), Royal Delta finished 10th behind 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
“Royal Delta’s timing is the same as it was last year and I think we’ve got a similar amount of work in her,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “She’s doing well and it’s just time to go back to the races with her. I think she’s perhaps a little bigger and stronger than last year, appearance-wise. She’s a year older and I think she’s becoming a fully-mature horse.”
Following her victory in last year’s Fleur de Lis, Royal Delta recorded victories in the Delaware Handicap (GII) and Beldame (GI) before scoring her second consecutive win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI).
With Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned running in the Stephen Foster, Saturday will mark the fourth time – but first in the winter, spring or summer – that defending Breeders’ Cup Classic and Ladies’ Classic champs will compete on the same program. The last occurred Sept. 27, 2008 at Belmont Park when Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) and Ginger Punch finished second in the Beldame.
In her attempt to defend her crown, Royal Delta will give 10 or 11 pounds to each of her four rivals. Her assigned weight of 125 pounds would be the most carried by a winner of the Fleur de Lis. Heatherten (1984), Serena’s Song (1996), Banshee Breeze (1999) and Rachel Alexandra (2010) carried 124 pounds.
The main competition for Royal Delta could be Wine Princess, winner of last year’s Monmouth Oaks (GIII) and most recently a seven-length winner of an allowance/optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs on Opening Night of the Spring Meet on April 27. Owned by Becky Winemiller and trained by Steve Margolis, Wine Princess is a 4-year-old chestnut daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri.
“We’re getting 10 pounds from her, which is definitely a help,” Margolis said. “Royal Delta is a proven champion and a serious racehorse, but we’ve got quality too and we’re undefeated on the dirt here. We’re looking forward to the challenge and feel our horse deserves a shot.”
The two other graded stakes winners in the field are Robert Zoellner’s homebred She’s All In, winner of the 2012 Sixty Sails (GIII) at Hawthorne, and Ice Cream Silence, winner of the Doubledogdare (GIII) on the Polytrack at Keeneland in April. John Oxley’s Funny Proposition, an impressive three-length winner in a one-mile allowance / optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 17, rounds out the field.
The Fleur de Lis is scheduled to go as Race 6 at 8:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) on the 11-race card and kicks off an all stakes Pick 4 that concludes with the Regret, which goes as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m.
The field for the Fleur de Lis Handicap from the rail out (with jockey, weight and morning-line odds): Funny Proposition (Joel Rosario, 114, 6-1), Ice Cream Silence (Rosie Napravnik, 115, 10-1), Wine Princess (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 4-1), She’s All In (Ricardo Santana Jr., 114, 10-1) and Royal Delta (Mike Smith, 125, 2-5).
A competitive group of 11 3-year-olds, headlined by Federico Tesio winner Abstraction, Risen Star (GII) runner-up Code West, allowance winner Bellarmine and 2012 Canadian Horse of the Year Uncaptured, will face off in Saturday’s 16th running of the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The Matt Winn, named in honor of the famed Churchill Downs President Col. Matt Winn, will go as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.
My Meadowview Farm’s homebred Abstraction won the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on April 27 after breaking his maiden at Fair Grounds in March by 9 ¾ lengths. He recorded both those victories under Leandro Goncalves, who has the call Saturday.
Gary and Mary West’s Code West finished a nose behind Ive Struck a Nerve in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds in March. After running sixth in the Louisiana Derby (GII), Code West finished a neck behind Bellarmine in 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard and then won an allowance on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico by 6 ¾ lengths. Code West will get another shot at Magdalena Racing’s Bellarmine, who enters the Matt Winn off back-to-back victories.
Code West is trained by Bob Baffert and is one of two entrants in the Matt Winn for the Wests. The other is Treasury Bill, who was second in the San Vicente (GII) in February and most recently ran third in the Came Home at Hollywood Park. Previously trained by Ron Ellis, Treasury Bill now is in the stable of Wayne Catalano.
John Oxley’s Uncaptured ended his juvenile campaign by sweeping the Iroquois (GIII) and Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs. In his 3-year-old debut, he finished second behind Black Onyx in the Spiral (GIII) at Turfway Park and then ran 10th in the Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland. In his most recent start, Uncaptured was second of four in the Wando at Woodbine.
The field for the Matt Winn, from the rail out (with jockey and morning-line odds): Looking Cool (Alan Garcia, 15-1), Sunbean (Joel Rosario, 6-1), Uncaptured (Miguel Mena, 6-1), Dewey Square (Mike Smith, 12-1), Code West (Rosie Napravnik, 4-1), Treasury Bill (Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1), Abstraction (Leandro Goncalves, 9-2), Street Spice (Jeffrey Sanchez, 20-1), Ruler of Love (Joe Rocco Jr., 12-1), Bellarmine (Julien Leparoux, 9-2) and Carve (Ricardo Santana Jr., 12-1).
Kitten’s Dumplings, an easy 3 ¾-length winner of the Edgewood at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard, headlines a field of 11 3-year-old fillies entered for Saturday’s 44th running of the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Regret, named in honor of the filly who became the first of only three members of her gender to win the Kentucky Derby in 1915, is scheduled as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m.
The Edgewood was the second career stakes victory for Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Kitten’s Dumplings, who won the La Senorita at Retama Park as a juvenile. A bay daughter of Kitten’s Joy, Kitten’s Dumplings has won half of her six turf starts and has career earnings of $246,881.
The main rivals for Kitten’s Dumplings could be Edgewood runner-up Praia, last year’s Golden Rod (GII) winner Seaneen Girl, who will be making her turf debut, and Oscar Party, winner of her 3-year-old debut by 2 ¾ lengths in an allowance on the Matt Winn Turf Course on May 25.
The field for the Regret from the rail out (with jockey and morning-line odds): Praia (Alan Garcia, 6-1), Abbey Street (Miguel Mena, 15-1), Kitten’s Dumplings (Joel Rosario, 5-2), Beverage Queen (Julien Leparoux, 10-1), Oscar Party (Norberto Arroyo Jr., 6-1), Miss Lucky Sevens (Rosie Napravnik, 10-1), Eden Prairie (Brian Hernandez Jr., 10-1), Broken Spell (Robby Albarado, 8-1), Seaneen Girl (Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1), Intelyhente (Corey Lanerie, 8-1) and (Joe Rocco Jr., 20-1).
VALIANT BOY SBFAR, winner of last year’s Texas Arabian Derby (GIII), has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite by Churchill Downs’ oddsmaker Mike Battaglia for Saturday’s second running of the $100,000-added President of the United Arab Emirates Cup.
The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup will be just the second Arabian race to be run beneath the Twin Spires. It is scheduled to go as Race 10 at 10:42 p.m. The inaugural running took place on June 18, 2011 when Sam Vasquez’s TM FRED TEXAS prevailed in the 1 ¼-mile race by 9 ¼ lengths. This year’s renewal will be contested at 1 1/16 miles.
TM FRED TEXAS was trained by Ronald Martino, who also trains VALIANT BOY SBFAR. A 5-year-old gray son of DARWEESH, VALIANT BOY SBFAR began his career in France and made his United States debut last June. Since coming to the U.S. he has won five of his nine starts. He will be ridden Saturday by Joe Rocco Jr.
SMOKE HOUSE and SO BIG IS BETTER are co-second choices at 5-2 on the morning line.
SMOKE HOUSE, winner of the Delaware Park Arabian Juvenile Championship (GIII) last year, will be making just his fourth career start in the President of UAE Cup. In his only race of 2013, he finished second behind VALIANT BOY SBFAR in an allowance at Delaware Park on May 27. SMOKE HOUSE will be ridden Saturday by Ricardo Santana Jr.
SO BIG IS BETTER is owned and trained by Mark Powell and has won 20 of his 46 career starts. In his last start, he won a six-furlong allowance race at Arapahoe Park by six lengths under Kelsi Purcell, who has the call Saturday.
The field for the President of UAE Cup from the rail out (with jockey and morning-line odds): VALIANT BOY SBFAR (Rocco Jr., 2-1), IN X HESS (Corey Lanerie, 6-1), SMOKE HOUSE (Santana Jr., 5-2), SECRET TREASOUR (Juan Torres, 15-1), SO BIG IS BETTER (Purcell, 5-2), SPIN DOCTOR (Juan Molina Jr., 20-1), VIP (Dakota Wood, 12-1) and SAND BLASTT (Martin Solis, 10-1).
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2014 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled continues through Sunday, June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.