Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra has been assigned 118 pounds by Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman for next Saturday's 29th running of the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
The Stephen Foster is one of four races next Saturday mentioned by Rachel Alexandra's owner Jess Jackson as the next start for the 4-year-old filly. Also possible for Rachel Alexandra is the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII) also at 1 1/8 miles here for which she was assigned high weight of 124 pounds, the Ogden Phipps Handicap (GI) at Belmont Park and the Obeah (GIII) at Delaware Park.
Quality Road, winner of the Metropolitan Handicap (GI) on Monday at Belmont Park, was assigned top weight in the Stephen Foster of 127 pounds. However, Quality Road will bypass the Stephen Foster as likely will second high weight Rail Trip (122 pounds) who is targeting the California (GII) at Hollywood Park next Saturday.
Three horses considered as probable for the Stephen Foster were assigned 120 pounds: Jay Em Ess Stable's Arson Squad, winner of the Alysehba (GIII) and Skip Away (GIII) in his past two starts; Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm's Blame, winner of the W.D. Schaefer (GIII) in his 2010 debut after closing 2009 with victories in the Fayette (GII) and Clark Handicap (GII); and Tom McCarthy's General Quarters, winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) in his most recent start.
Other probables include Overbrook Farm's Battle Plan (119), winner of four consecutive starts including the New Orleans Handicap (GII) in his most recent outing; defending Stephen Foster champion Macho Again (116), owned by West Point Thoroughbreds; and, the Virginia H. Tarra Trust's Giant Oak (115), who was fourth to Blame in last fall's Clark Handicap.
Blame is scheduled to work Sunday morning at 8 o'clock at Keeneland and Giant Oak is slated for a Churchill Downs work after the morning renovation break with Shaun Bridgmohan up. Bridgmohan has ridden Giant Oak in his past two starts in Kentucky: a third-place finish in the Ben Ali (GIII) at Keeneland in April and last year's Clark Handicap.
Scheduled to arrive Monday for the Stephen Foster are Alex and Joann Lieblong, Marilyn McMaster and David Fawkes' Duke of Mischief (116), winner of the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) in his most recent start, and Fox Hill Farms' Honest Man (115).
The assigned Fleur De Lis impost matches what Rachel Alexandra carried in the La Troienne (GII) on April 30 when she was defeated by a head by Unrivaled Belle.
Second high weight for the Fleur De Lis is Mrs. C. Wilson McNeely III's Funny Moon (118), winner of the Coaching Club of America Oaks (GI) last summer and the Shuvee Handicap (GII) in her most recent start.
Entries for the Stephen Foster, Fleur De Lis and three other graded stakes for 3-year-olds -- the Northern Dancer, Regret and Jefferson Cup - will be taken Wednesday.
EASY GOER GAVE CARROLL LASTING BELMONT MEMORY - Trainer David Carroll had a front-row seat to one of the better rivalries in racing in 1989 as the exercise rider of Easy Goer, who dueled with Sunday Silence through four stellar matchups.
The one day Easy Goer got the best of Sunday Silence was June 10 in the Belmont Stakes when the Shug McGaughey-trained pride of the East Coast denied the California star the Triple Crown with an eight-length victory.
"We felt Easy Goer should have won the Preakness," Carroll said of the colt's defeat by a nose at Pimlico. "If Pat Day could take one ride back, I think it would be that one and he'll probably tell you the same thing.
"There was no difference in his training, but Easy Goer's final work before the Belmont was fantastic. The big, sweeping turns at Belmont suited him better. One thing Sunday Silence had that he didn't was gears. Easy Goer just kept coming gradually."
Sunday Silence had won the Kentucky Derby by 2 ½ lengths over Easy Goer in the duo's initial meeting.
"There was a huge buildup for the Kentucky Derby; East versus West," Carroll said. "(At the Belmont) There was a lot of tension in the barn, because we had our pride, too.
"Walking over with Shug, he was so confident. I'll never forget it. He said ‘you are going to see something today.' He really delivered."
Easy Goer completed the distance in 2:26, two seconds slower that Secretariat's record time set in 1973 but tied with A.P. Indy's clocking in 1992 as the second-fastest Belmont of all time.
"The biggest thing I remember about that is the respect Shug had for Charlie (Whittingham, trainer of Sunday Silence) and vice versa," Carroll said. "The day after, Tony Reinstedler and I were at the barn and Charlie came by and said our horse ran a great race."
HANCOCK HOLDS HIS OWN WITH TOP 2-YEAR-OLD TRAINERS - In the past few springs at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, trainers Steve Asmussen and Wesley Ward have consistently hit with a high percentage of 2-year-olds.
Ward had three juvenile winners at Keeneland and Asmussen leads all Churchill Downs trainers with five 2-year-olds winners through the first 23 days of the meet.
A third name to look for with babies on the track is John Hancock, who picked up his third Churchill Downs winner from six 2-year-old starters on Monday when Internet Café won the third race.
It was the second juvenile winner in two days for Hancock, who saddled Bach Hamilton to maiden victory on Sunday.
When the three trainers have had horses in the same race, Hancock runners have mostly held the upper hand.
At Churchill Downs, Hancock horses finished ahead of Ward runners on three of four occasions and are now even with Asmussen runners after the victories by Internet Café and Bach Hamilton. At Keeneland, Hancock's horses finished in front of Asmussen's runners on all four occasions and split in four head-to-head meetings with Ward runners.
BARN TALK - Calvin Borel got his milestone on Friday - 1,000 victories at Churchill Downs - while trainer Dale Romans remained one shy of his. Romans, who has 499 victories at Churchill Downs, has one horse entered Saturday: Timuquana, the morning line favorite in the sixth. Timuquana is owned by Donald Dizney, for whom Romans is saddling First Dude in Saturday afternoon's Belmont Stakes (GI). Should Timuquana fail to deliver the goods, Romans will have one more shot Sunday when he sends out Zapparition in the third race.
WORK TAB - Kentucky Juvenile (GIII) winner Lou Brissie worked five furlongs on a fast track in 1:01.20, 13th fastest of 32 at the distance. ... Two-time graded-stakes placed and Jefferson Cup nominee Guys Reward worked the same distance in 1:00, the second fastest at the distance. ... Allowance winner Connie and Michael, pointed for the Mother Goose (GI) at Belmont Park on June 26, worked a half-mile in :49.60, 17th fastest of 44 at the distance.