Reigning 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge looms as the starting high weight in Saturday’s 33rd running of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) after being assigned a 123-pound impost for the race by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.
Willis D. Horton and Three Chimneys Farm LLC’s 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song, who finished eighth in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and defeated Game On Dude last November in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), was assigned one pound fewer than Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice for the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up. Palace Malice won Saturday’s Metropolitan Handicap (GI) at Belmont Park and will not compete in the Foster.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Will Take Charge will concede at least five pounds to his rivals in the Stephen Foster Handicap, which is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Classic Division race. The winner of the Foster will earn an automatic starting berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) in November at Santa Anita, along with payment of entry fees and a travel stipend of $10,000 for the journey to the Arcadia, Cal. track.
Other expected contenders in the Foster (with assigned weight) include Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing (118), winner of the 2013 Super Derby (GII), West Virginia Derby (GII) and Illinois Derby (GIII); Randy Patterson’s Alysheba (GII) winner Moonshine Mullin (118); WinStar Farm LLC’s Revolutionary (118), third in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and winner of the recent Pimlico Special (GIII) for trainer Todd Pletcher; Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket (117), runner-up to Fort Larned in the 2013 Foster; Zayat Stables’ Pimlico Special runner-up Prayer for Relief (117); Darley Stable’s Long River (115), runner-up in the Excelsior (III) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; GoldMark Farm LLC and Whisper Hill Farm LLC’s Mylute (115), fifth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness (GI) for trainer Tom Amoss.
Possible Stephen Foster starters include Bellarmine (115) and Carve (114).
Anita Cauley’s homebred local hero On Fire Baby is set to be the starting high weight in the 39th running of the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis presented by Etihad Airways (GII) for fillies and mares three and up, one of a trio stakes races that will share the “Downs After Dark” Saturday night spotlight with the Stephen Foster.
The winner of the $300,000-added La Troienne (GI) on Kentucky Oaks Day has been assigned 122 pounds as she seeks her fourth career stakes victory beneath the Twin Spires for veteran trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage and jockey Joe Johnson.
On Fire Baby wrapped up her serious training for the Fleur De Lis on Saturday with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.40 over a “fast’ surface at her home track.
Other expected contenders in the Fleur De Lis (with assigned weight) include Sixty Sails (GIII) and Locust Grove winner Flashy American (118), La Troienne runner-up Molly Morgan (116), La Canada (GII) third-place finisher Ondine (116) and 2013 Arlington Matron (GIII) runner-up Frivolous (114).
Revolutionary arrived at Churchill Downs Sunday on a flight from New York that also carried Belmont Stakes (GI) participants Medal Count, who finished third to the victorious Tonalist; Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, who ran ninth; and General a Rod, who finished seventh.
Prayer for Relief completed his serious preparation for the Stephen Foster on Saturday with a “bullet” five-furlong breeze for trainer Dale Romans in 1:00 – the fastest of 32 moves at the distance. The son of Jump Start has won eight of 29 races and earned $1,682,413 in his racing career.
ALMOST FAMOUS WORKS; ‘ALL SYSTEMS GO’ FOR MATT WINN
Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s Almost Famous, who defeated older horses by 7 ¾ lengths in an allowance race last time out, breezed a half-mile in :48.80 at Churchill Downs Sunday morning in preparation for Saturday’s $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII).
Trained by Pat Byrne, Almost Famous was breezed by regular jockey Calvin Borel, who will ride the 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song under the lights this Saturday.
When asked how the colt’s work went this morning, Byrne responded, “Just stretching his legs; we’re all set for Saturday evening and are looking forward to it.”
When asked what type of trip Almost Famous would need to win the Matt Winn, Byrne responded, “I think there’s probably going to be some speed in there but I’ve said all along that I don’t think this horse needs to have the early lead. Calvin knows this horse so well. He was on him for his breeze this morning and seemed happy with it. It’s all systems go.”
As of Sunday morning, the Churchill Downs racing office had five other colts listed as ‘probable’ for the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn include Donegal Racing’s Iroquois (GIII) winner Cleburne; Conquest Stables LLC’s Holy Bull (GII) runner-up Conquest Titan; Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner Tapiture; Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s The Admiral and Mary Ann Charlston’s Ulbanator.
GRAND OPENING OF THE ‘TERRACE LOUNGE’ THIS SATURDAY NIGHT
This Saturday, June 14, Churchill Downs 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.
LAST HAPPY HOUR OF THE SPRING MEET THIS FRIDAY
June 13 marks the final edition of Friday Happy Hour at Churchill Downs, featuring live music and drink specials in the Plaza. Live music will be performed by Willow Creek and $2 Bud Lights and $3 Stella Artois will be available in the Plaza from 3-7 p.m. In addition to traditional grilled food items (burgers, hot dogs, brats) there will be a different specialty food item offered each week in the Plaza and guests also can register for box seats for the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.