Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan, a 10 ½-length winner of the Ben Ali (Grade III) in track-record time on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface, has been named the 123 pound high weight by Churchill Downs’ Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for Saturday’s $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).
The 31st running of the Stephen Foster for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track will make history as it will be run under the lights for the first time as part of the “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program. For the first time, the Stephen Foster Handicap is included in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ “Win and You’re In" series and its winner will earn an automatic starting berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.
Wise Dan, a 5-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry, was making his 2012 debut in the Ben Ali. In his final start at age 4, Wise Dan bested a field of 13 in the Clark Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs. The Clark is the lone Grade I victory for Wise Dan, who has won a total five graded stakes races for trainer Charlie Lopresti. Those victories include the Phoenix (GIII) and Fayette (GII) at Keeneland, the Firecracker Handicap (GII) on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs and the aforementioned Clark and Ben Ali.
Wise Dan, a chestnut Kentucky bred, has a record of 9-0-0 from 15 starts and earnings of $1,009,601.
The next high weight at 122 pounds is Pin Oak Stable’s homebred Alternation, who is undefeated in four starts this year. The dark bay or brown son of Distorted Humor recorded his most recent victory in the Pimlico Special (GIII) at Pimlico on May 18. His other 2012 triumphs all came at Oaklawn Park in the Essex Handicap, Razorback Handicap (GIII) and Oaklawn Handicap (GII).
Those four victories improved Alternation’s record to 8-1-1 from 13 career starts and earnings of $900,004 for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s homebred Shackleford, winner of the Met Mile (GI) by a nose over Caleb’s Posse, is weighted next at 121 pounds. The Met Mile was the second graded stakes victory of 2012 for Shackleford, who also won the Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GII) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard. His biggest victory as a 3-year-old came in the Preakness (GI), where he was able to hold off a late charge by Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner Animal Kingdom to win for trainer Dale Romans.
Shackleford has a record of 5-4-1 from 16 starts and an impressive bankroll of $2,741,381.
CHAMPION ROYAL DELTA TO CARRY TOP WEIGHT IN FLEUR DE LIS – Besilu Stabes’ Royal Delta, who was named champion 3-year-old filly off a smashing 2 ½-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs last November, has been assigned the top weight of 123 pounds by Churchill Downs’ Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for Saturday’s Fleur de Lis (GII).
The 37th running of the Fleur de Lis for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track will be contested under the lights Saturday as part of the “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
Royal Delta’s championship season also included wins in the Alabama (GI) at Saratoga and the Black-Eyed Susan (GII) at Pimlico that improved her record to 4-1-1 from seven 2011 starts and earnings of $1,657,400 for trainer Bill Mott.
After a winter vacation, Royal Delta returned for a 4-year-old campaign in the Sabin (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and finished second to Awesome Maria. A dark bay or brown daughter of Empire Maker, Royal Delta then traveled to Dubai and finished ninth against males in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI) after a troubled trip.
The next high weight at 120 pounds is Flaxman Holdings Ltd.’s Pachattack, winner of the Doubledogdare (GIII) on the Polytrack at Keeneland in her most recent start. A 6-year-old chestnut daughter of Pulpit, Pachattack was making her first start in the Doubledogdare since ending her 2011 campaign with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic behind Royal Delta and It’s Tricky.
Bred in Kentucky by Dapple Broodmares 2004, Pachattack has recorded stakes wins in England, Canada and the United States and has a career record of 6-5-4 from 27 starts and earnings of $786,893.
Weighted at 119 is another Mott-trained mare, Carolyn Wilson’s Arena Elvira. The 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper ended her 2011 campaign with a victory in the Falls City Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs following a win in the Turnback the Alarm (GIII) at Aqueduct.
In her 2012 debut, Arena Elvira won the Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay prior to finishing third in the Sixty Sails Handicap (GIII) at Hawthorne. Her career record stands at 8-3-3 from 14 starts and earnings of $443,436.
ALTERNATION ARRIVES AT CHURCHILL DOWNS FOR FOSTER BID – Pin Oak Stable’s homebred Alternation, a winner by the smallest of margins in the Pimlico Special (GIII) in his last start, arrived at Churchill Downs at 10:20 a.m. (all times Eastern) Sunday after a van ride from Arlington Park to continue his preparations for Saturday’s 31st running of the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).
“He’s perfect and we’re getting him settled in,” trainer Donnie Von Hemel said upon Alternation’s arrival to Barn 17 at the Louisville track.
Alternation, who will carry 122 pounds in the Stephen Foster, is undefeated in four starts this year. Other than his win in the Pimlico Special, he had a trio of victories at the Oaklawn Park meet, including the Oaklawn Handicap (GII).
“(The Stephen Foster) was always a race we were going to try to make,” Von Hemel said. “I think with the Oaklawn Handicap and Pimlico Special, he’s had a couple of races that make him fit in the race. We’re happy and we’re looking forward to it.”
A 4-year-old dark bay or brown son of Distorted Humor, Alternation will be seeking his first Grade I victory in the Stephen Foster, but not his first win under the lights. Saturday’s Stephen Foster will be contested under the lights for the first time as part of the “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
“He broke his maiden (on Dec. 9, 2010 at Remington Park) under the lights,” Von Hemel said.
Overall, Alternation sports a record of 8-1-1 from 13 starts and earnings of $900,004.
Jockey Luis Quinonez was aboard Alternation for seven of his eight victories and Von Hemel said he would have the mount in the Stephen Foster.
FIELDS FOR STEPHEN FOSTER DAY STAKES BEGINNING TO TAKE SHAPE – The “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program on Saturday, June 16 will be highlighted by the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), the Fleur de Lis (GII), the Matt Winn (GIII) and the Regret (GIII). With entries to be taken for the stellar Saturday card on Wednesday, the fields are beginning to come together.
The following is a list of horses believed by Churchill Downs officials to be pointing to each stakes race.
The 31st running of the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track: Wise Dan (trained by Charlie Lopresti, weighted at 123 pounds), Alternation (Donnie Von Hemel, 122), Ron the Greek (Bill Mott, 119), Fort Larned (Ian Wilkes, 117), Mission Impazible (Todd Pletcher, 116), Nehro (Steve Asmussen, 116) and Rogue Romance (Ken McPeek, 115).
Successful Dan (Lopresti, 119), Nates Mineshaft (Austin Smith, 118) and Astrology (Asmussen, 115) are believed to be possible participants in the race.
The 37th running of the $150,000-added Fleur de Lis Presented by Finlandia Vodka for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track: Royal Delta (trained by Bill Mott, weighted at 123 pounds), St. John’s River (Andy Leggio Jr., 118) and It’s Tea Time (Rusty Arnold, 115).
Absinthe Minded (Wayne Lukas, 116), Afleeting Lady (Dale Romans, 116) and Distorted Love (Helen Pitts-Blasi, 114) are considered to be possible entrants.
The 15th running of the $100,000-added Matt Winn for 3-year-olds and 1 1/16 miles on the main track: Macho Macho (trained by Steve Asmussen), Master Rick (Asmussen), Neck ’n Neck (Ian Wilkes), Right to Vote (Eoin Harty) and Stealcase (Mark Casse).
Reigning Eclipse Award 2-year-old champion Hansen (Mike Maker) and Johannesbourbon (Kellyn Gorder) are believed to be possible for the Winn.
The 43rd running of the $100,000-added for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course: Centre Court (trained by Rusty Arnold), Colonial Flag (Michael Matz), Coup (Graham Motion), Golden History (Mark Casse), Heart of Destiny (Jimmy Baker), Karlovy Vary (Arnold), Left a Message (Tom Proctor), Silver Hustler (Grant Forster), Singn on Themoon (Mark Hubley), Treasured Up (Al Stall Jr.) and Zapper Belle (Dan Peitz).
Funny Proposition (Casse) is considered to be a possible entrant in the Regret.
BARN TALK – Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft, who has recorded wins this year in the New Orleans Handicap (GII), Mineshaft (GIII) and Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII), worked four furlongs in :50.20 on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning and will make his next start beneath the Twin Spires.
“He went excellent this morning,” trainer Austin Smith said. “We’re going to talk about it this afternoon, but (he’ll make his next start) in the Firecracker (GII on Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs on July 1) or the (Stephen) Foster (GI). Right now I’m leaning toward the Foster.”
The time of :50.20 ranked 30th of 53 works at the distance on Sunday. …
Champion Royal Delta, Santa Anita Handicap (GI) winner Ron the Greek and 2011 New Orleans Handicap (GII) winner Mission Impazible are scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs from New York on Monday to continue their preparations for the Saturday stakes events beneath the Twin Spires. …
Champion 2-year-old filly of 2011 My Miss Aurelia arrived at Steve Asmussen’s barn at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 9 at 5:50 a.m. Owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton, My Miss Aurelia has not raced since her dominating three-length victory in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs last November. No plans have been made for when she will make her 3-year-old debut. …
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. recorded his 200th career Churchill Downs win with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Full in the eighth race Saturday. The win aboard Full also brought the 26-year-old native of Lafayette, La. just 30 victories shy of the 1,000-win milestone for his career. …
It would be an understatement to say jockey Corey Lanerie is on a hot streak. Since his six-win day on May 27, Lanerie has won aboard 27 of his last 75 mounts. That’s a 36-percent win clip.
WORKTAB – Zayat Stables LLC’s Nehro, runner-up to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby (GI) last spring at Churchill Downs and most recently second by a nose to Alternation in the Pimlico Special (GIII), breezed four furlongs Sunday in :50.40 for trainer Steve Asmussen. Churchill Downs officials believe Nehro will make his next start in Saturday’s $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).
Also working for Asmussen on Sunday were Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s Astrology, winner of the Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs at age 2, and Vinery Stables’ Regally Ready. Astrology, who is believed to be possible for a Foster start off a 2 ¾-length allowance victory at Oaklawn Park on April 14, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60. The worked ranked 12th out of 17 at the distance.
Regally Ready, winner of the Nearctic (GI) at Woodbine and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) at Churchill Downs in 2011, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40. It was the 10th fastest five-furlong move of 17 at the distance. …
Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Afleeting Lady, second by a neck to Arena Elvira in last November’s Falls City Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs, worked a bullet four furlongs in :47.20 for trainer Dale Romans. A 5-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex, Afleeting Lady is believed by Churchill Downs officials to be possible for Saturday’s Fleur de Lis Presented by Finlandia Vodka (GII).
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 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013, and its 2012 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. 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.
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