Churchill Downs will offer a supplement to the purse for the 27th running of its Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, June 14. The supplement comes from track marketing funds and raises the value of the mile and an eighth race for 3-year-olds & up to a record $1 million if a single condition is met: at least one winner of a previous Grade I stakes event must compete in the race.
An all-star cast of veteran Thoroughbred stars has been nominated for the 2008 running of the Stephen Foster Handicap. The roster of nominees is headed by Stonestreet Stables and Midnight Cry Stables’ Curlin, the reigning American “Horse of the Year” and a dominant winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI). Other Grade I winners nominated to the Stephen Foster include 2003 Stephen Foster winner Perfect Drift, Pimlico Special (GI) and Pacific Classic (GI) winner Student Council; Donn Handicap (GI) winner Brass Hat; Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner Great Hunter; and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) winner Einstein.
“There are many races matching the best older horses in North America to choose from at this time of year, and the supplement of these marketing fund monies to raise the purse of the Stephen Foster Handicap to $1 million is an effort to guarantee a top notch field that will take the status of this important race to an even higher level,” said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs and Churchill Downs Incorporated executive vice president. “Ideally we will see several Grade I winners compete, but the fact that even one Grade I winner and several other accomplished stars would be running for a record $1 million purse provides additional sizzle for a wonderful race and an outstanding day of Churchill Downs stakes competition.”
The addition to the purse of the Stephen Foster raises the total value of purses in the six stakes events on Churchill Downs’ “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” to a record $2.025 million. The other stakes races scheduled on the day include the $300,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII), $200,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII), $200,000-added Regret (GIII), $175,000-added Northern Dancer (GIII), and the $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII).
The Stephen Foster Handicap has carried a purse of $750,000-added since 1998 and has held the distinction since then of being the second-richest race on the Churchill Downs stakes schedule. In recent years the Stephen Foster has showcased some of the biggest stars in American racing and the race was granted Grade I status in 2002 by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
Previous champions that have raced in the Stephen Foster Handicap include Mr. and Mrs. William Warren’s Saint Liam, who won the race in 2005 during a campaign that earned him “Horse of the Year” honors at the end of the year, and William S. Farish, James Elkins Jr. and Temple Webber Jr.’s Mineshaft, who suffered a narrow loss to Perfect Drift in his Stephen Foster appearance during his “Horse of the Year” season in 2003. Other notable winners have include Godolphin’s Street Cry, who won both the Dubai World Cup and the Stephen Foster in 2002; Victory Gallop, who won the race in track record time during the season in which he earned an Eclipse Award that honored him as America’s top older horse; and Awesome Again, who edged 1997 Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Silver Charm in the 1998 Stephen Foster that proved to be a preview of that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), which saw the same horses return to Churchill Downs to finish 1-2.