Stonestreet Stable and Midnight Cry Stable’s reigning “Horse of the Year” Curlin heads a star-studded roster of veteran racing stars nominated to the 27th running of the Churchill Downs’ $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) on Saturday, June 14 at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up is the main event on a schedule of six stakes races on “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” and could carry a record purse of $1 million if the field includes one or more winners of a previous Grade I stakes event. Churchill Downs has offered to supplement $250,000 from its marketing account to the Stephen Foster purse if at least one Grade I winner starts in the race.
Curlin, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, won the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI) on March 29 at Nad Al Sheba and last fall’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (GI) at Monmouth Park. The Steve Asmussen-trained chestnut finished third to Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs, but avenged that setback in the Preakness (GI) and also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at Belmont Park during the campaign in which he also earned an Eclipse Award as 3-year-old champion.
Curlin, who has won eight of 11 races and earned $8,807,800, opened his 4-year-old campaign with a pair of victories in Dubai highlighted by his 7 ¾-length romp in the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race.
Other Grade I winners among the 29 older stars nominated to the Stephen Foster Handicap include Stonecrest Farm’s homebred Perfect Drift, who upset eventual “Horse of the Year” Mineshaft to win the 2003 Foster and has career earnings of $4,699,321; Millennium Farms’ Student Council, the winner of the recent Pimlico Special (GI) and last year’s Pacific Classic (GI) who has career earnings of $1,307,731; Fred Bradley’s homebred Brass Hat, a career earner of $1,761,814 who won Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park in 2006; J. Paul Reddam’s Great Hunter, who won the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland in 2006; and Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein, winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) and two-time winner of the Gulfstream Park Turf (GI) who has earned $1,107,931.
Other notables nominated to the 2008 Stephen Foster Handicap include the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust’s A.P. Arrow, winner of the 2007 Clark Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs; Stronach Stable’s Giant Gizmo, winner of the Alysheba (GIII) at Churchill Downs and the Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII) in his last two starts; William S. Farish and E.J. Hudson’s Grasshopper, winner of the Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) and runner-up to Street Sense in the 2007 Travers (GI); Michael Langford’s Jonesboro, winner of the Razorback Handicap (GIII); Mike Willman’s McCann’s Mojave, winner of the Berkley Handicap (GIII) at Golden Gate Fields and a career earner of nearly $1.5 million; and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Zanjero, winner of the 2006 Indiana Derby (GII) and West Virginia Derby (GIII) who has earned more than $1.3 million.
The five major stakes races that share the spotlight with the Stephen Foster Handicap on the “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” racing program also attracted strong rosters of nominees.
The 34th running of the $300,000-added Fleur De Lis (GII) for fillies and mares ages 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles boasts Stronach Stable’s Ginger Punch and Rancho San Miguel, George Todaro and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Hystericalady among its 18 nominees. Ginger Punch capped a stellar 2007 campaign with a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Monmouth Park. She also won the Ruffian (GI) and Go for Wand (GI) on her way to an Eclipse Award that honored her as America’s top older filly or mare. She won the Louisville Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs in her most recent start.
Hystericalady burst to prominence last year with a victory in the $300,000-added Humana Distaff (GI) at Churchill Downs and finished a close second to Ginger Punch in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Other major stakes winners nominated to the Fleur De Lis include Bear Now, Leah’s Secret, Spring Waltz, Tough Tiz’s Sis and Tessa Blue.
Thirty-two 3-year-olds were nominated to the 31st running of the $200,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Prominent members of that roster of nominees include Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, winner of the $150,000-added Crown Royal American Turf (GIII); Ashbrook Farm’s Wicked Style, winner of the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland; Sarah and Jon Kelly’s Calder Derby (GIII) and Palm Beach (GIII) winner Sporting Art; Arlington Classic winner Meal Penalty; and Cradle winner Old Man Buck.
The 39th running of the $200,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course includes the versatile Pure Clan among its nominees. Owned by IEAH Stable, Lewis Lakin and Pegasus Holding Group, the daughter of Pure Prize finished third to Proud Spell in the 134th running of the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI). Trainer Robert Holthus plans to make the Regret a return to the grass for Pure Clan, who won her first two races on turf before she switched to the dirt to win Churchill Downs’ $250,000-added Golden Rod (GII) and $100,000-added Pocahontas (GIII).
Others nominated to the Regret include Zayat Stables’ Edgewood winner Zee Zee; Koolmen Racing Stable’s A to the Croft, a recent allowance winner on turf at Churchill Downs who ran seventh in the Kentucky Oaks and was Grade I-placed on the dirt at two; Absolutely Cindy, who ran 10th in the Kentucky Oaks, but defeated males in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park for owner/trainer Keith Kinmon; Charles Laloggia’s Clearly Foxy, winner of Woodbine’s Natalma (GIII) as a 2-year-old; Sands Point (GII) and Calder Oaks runner-up Life is Sweet; and celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Hollywood Starlet (GI) runner-up Grace and Power.
At least two horses that chased unbeaten Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) are expected to compete in the seventh running of the $175,000-added Northern Dancer (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Louie Roussel III and Ronnie Lamarque’s Recapturetheglory, who was fifth in the Kentucky Derby, and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro, who was eighth in the “Run for the Roses,” are among the 26 3-year-olds nominated to the Northern Dancer.
Other Derby veterans on the roster of Northern Dancer nominees include Cool Coal Man (15th in the Derby) and Visionaire (12th). Coolmore Lexington (GII) winner Behindatthebar; Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up My Pal Charlie; Hollywood Prevue (GIII) winner Massive Drama; Racecar Rhapsody, the fourth-place finisher in the Preakness; and Gotham (GIII) runner-up Texas Wildcatter are also nominated.
Thirty-eight older fillies and mares were nominated to the 32nd running of the $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Major stars in that group include Frank Calabrese’s multiple turf stakes winner Dreaming of Anna, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2006; Jacks or Better Farm’s Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) winner Bayou’s Lassie; Joseph Allen’s Kentucky Cup Distaff (GIII) winner Danzon; Lawrence Goichman’s My Charmer (GIII) winner J’ray; and IEAH Stable and WinStar Farm’s Lake Placid (GIII) winner Sharp Susan.