While some of America’s most talented older horses prepare to compete in the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) later in the day, a trio of stakes for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds will share the spotlight with the first race in Churchill Downs history for Arabian horses during the 12-race Stephen Foster Day Presented by Abu Dhabi racing program on Saturday, June 18.
The 30th running of the Stephen Foster Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles attracted a deep field of 11 horses heads by the Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s two-time Grade I stakes winner Giant Oak and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Crown of Thorns. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed Giant Oak, winner of Churchill Downs’ $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), as the 7-2 morning line favorite for the Foster, which is scheduled to be the last of the day’s dozen races. Post time for the Saturday’s first race is 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern).
But before the Foster is run, 3-year-olds take the spotlight in a trio of graded stakes races on dirt and turf that include:
- The $125,000-added Matt Winn Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track (scheduled as the 10th race with a post time of 5:25 p.m.),
- The $125,000-added Regret Presented by Etihad Airways (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies on turf at 1 1/8 miles (scheduled as the 11th race at 5:55 p.m.),
- The $100,000 Jefferson Cup Presented by Abu Dhabi (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on turf (schedule as the 9th race at 4:55 p.m).
Saturday’s sixth race will make history at the famed Louisville track as it will be the first Churchill Downs race to feature horses of the Arabian breed. The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup, a $50,000-added, Grade I race for purebred Arabian horses at the Kentucky Derby distance of a mile and a quarter.
The President of the UAE Cup Series was established 20 years ago to promote and celebrate the Arabian breed internationally. It was the first international racing series for Arabian horses and continues to be considered as the world’s premier racing series for the breed.
A field of eight Arabian horses ages 4 and up was entered Wednesday for Saturday’s race on the main track, and Churchill Downs jockeys will ride six of the entrants.
The Arabian star perhaps best known to local fans is Bill Waldron’s Grilla, who won an installment of The President of the UAE Cup Series last fall at Keeneland. The 5-year-old is coming off a victory in the Arabian Cup at Sam Houston on April 11 and will be ridden by William Hollick.
Sam Vasquez’ T M Fred Texas was runner-up to Grilla at Sam Houston, only his second loss in seven career starts, and will be ridden by Santos Chavez. Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel will ride Guy Neivens’ Dixies Valentine, a winner of nine of 11 career races.
Churchill Downs jockeys with mounts include Spring Meet win leader Corey Lanerie, Brian Hernandez Jr., Aldo Cachano and apprentices Constantino Roman and Marcelino Pedroza Jr.
The field for The President of the UAE Cup, from the rail out (with jockey, weight) includes: T M Fred Texas (Chavez, 118), Dixies Valentine (Borel, 118), Another Color (Roman, 123), Ovour the Top (Lanerie, 118), Crownn Royal (Hernandez, 123), Vip (Cachano, 118), Wodkka (Pedroza, 123) and Grilla (Hollick, 123).
The brightest star competing in the day’s trio of stakes races for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds could be Glen Hill Farm’s Banned, who heads a field of eight in the 36th running of the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup Presented by Abu Dhabi (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Trained by Tom Proctor, Banned rolled to his third win in six races in an emphatic 4 ½-length victory in the $200,000-added American Turf (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day. It was the first race of the year for the son of Kitten’s Joy who ran a solid fifth last fall to Pluck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GII) and started his season with a close third-place finish in an allowance race at Keeneland.
Jose Lezcano will ride Banned in the Jefferson Cup has he faces rivals that include a surprise entrant in Millennium Farms’ Great Mills, the speedy winner of the Grindstone at Fair Grounds and the only other stakes winner in the field. The Steve Asmussen-trained son of War Front was defeated in the final jump by Air Support in the Transylvania (GIII) at Keeneland and finished fourth in the American Turf. He was ridden in both races by Julien Leparoux, who has the mount on Saturday.
The field for the Jefferson Cup from the hedge out (with jockey, weight) includes: Live In Joy (Manoel Cruz, 117), Redboard (Leandro Goncalves, 117), Dream Warrior (Lanerie, 117), Banned (Lezcano, 121), Swagger Jack (James Graham, 117), Perregaux (Robby Albarado, 117), Benergy (Javier Castellano, 117) and Great Mills (Leparoux, 117).
Zayat Stables LLC’s Illinois Derby (GIII) winner Joe Vann and Charles Cella’s Uncle Brent, winner of the Northern Spur at Oaklawn Park, head a field eight 3-year-olds entered to compete in the 14th running of the $125,000-added Matt Winn Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
The race was formerly known as the Northern Dancer, but was renamed to honor the legendary president and general manager of Churchill Downs who is credited with building both the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs into their status as international sports icons. Col. Matt Winn arrived at Churchill Downs in 1902 when the track and its premier race were struggling, but the Derby had risen to become America’s greatest race and one of the world’s great sports events when he died in 1949.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Joe Vann romped to a 4 ¼-length victory in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and followed that with a fourth-place run behind Alternation in the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park. Javier Castellano will ride the son of Silver Deputy, who has won three of six races.
Uncle Brent turned in a poor ninth-place run in the Peter Pan, but has trained beautifully in preparation for the Matt Winn. The 3-year-old gelded son of Pioneering has won two of four races for trainer Lynn Whiting, who won the 1992 Kentucky Derby with Lil E. Tee. Manoel Cruz will ride.
The Matt Winn’s stakes veterans face a promising group of stakes newcomers that include Stonestreet Stable’s Wilburn and Z Thoroughbreds LLC’s Infrattini, the 1-2 finishers in a May 15 allowance race at Churchill Downs, and Peter J. Callahan’s Scotus, a troubled runner-up in an allowance race on June 5.
The Matt Winn field, from the rail out (with jockey, weight), includes: Alstom (Borel, 116), Infrattini (Lanerie, 116), Wilburn (Mike Smith, 116), Supreme Ruler (Jon Court, 116), Uncle Brent (Cruz, 120), Chalice (Leparoux, 116), Scotus (Alan Garcia, 116) and Joe Vann (Castellano, 120).
The 42nd running of the $125,000-added Regret Presented by Etihad Airways (GIII) provides the setting for a return turf by Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ accomplished Kathmanblu, a multiple stakes winner on grass and dirt who failed to threaten Plum Pretty in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) on the main track at Churchill Downs last time out.
Julien Leparoux will ride the daughter Bluegrass Cat who is one of two Regret contenders trained by the sizzling Ken McPeek, who brings a streak of three consecutive Churchill Downs stakes victories into Stephen Foster Day. McPeek will also saddle Catesby Clay’s homebred Bizzy Caroline, a daughter of Afleet Alex who rides a pair of impressive allowance victories at Keeneland and Churchill Downs into the Regret. Manoel Cruz will ride Bizzy Caroline from the inside post.
A major threat to the McPeek pair is Zayat Stable’s Diva Ash, the rapidly improving winner of the $100,000-added Edgewood on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Kentucky Oaks Day. The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Tapit, a winner of two of three starts, will be ridden by Robby Albarado.
Another filly turning to the grass after a run in the Kentucky Oaks is Right Time Racing LLC’s Bouquet Booth, a solid fifth in the Oaks and winner on dirt of the Delta Princess (GIII) at Delta Downs and Fair Grounds’ Silverbulletday. The Steve Margolis-trained daughter of Flower Alley will make her turf debut in the Regret and Shaun Bridgmohan will be in the saddle.
Other Regret contenders among the eight fillies entered in the Regret include Michael Tabor’s Excited, an easy winner of the $50,000 Hilltop at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard for Pletcher, and Sovereign Stable’s Blushandbashful, third in the same race for trainer John Terranova II.
Trainer Tom Proctor will saddle Glen Hill Farm’s Holidaysatthefarm, who failed to fire when she finished fifth to Regret rivals Kathmanblu and Excited in the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but fared much better in a runner-up finish to Dynamic Holiday in the Feb. 12 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Her most recent race was troubled eighth-place finish behind Dynamic Holiday in the Herecomesthebride (GIII) at Gulfstream Park on March 13.
Harris Thoroughbreds’ Gaya completes the Regret field. Trainer Tom Amoss’ daughter of Quest brings a three-race winning streak that includes a pair of turf wins at Fair Grounds and a recent victory on the grass at Indiana Downs.
The field for the Regret, from the hedge out (with jockey, weight), includes: Bizzy Caroline (Cruz, 116), Diva Ash (Albarado, 116), Bouquet Booth (Bridgmohan, 118), Holidaysatthefarm (Lezcano, 116), Kathmanblu (Leparoux, 122), Excited (Castellano, 116), Gaya (Graham, 118) and Blushandbashful (Freddie Lenclud, 116).