VODIKA COLLINS, KAELIN GOT STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP OFF AND RUNNING – Saturday’s 29th running of the Stephen Foster Handicap carries Grade I status and a $600,000-added pot.

Trainer Forrest Kaelin claims foul.

“I used to tell (former Churchill Downs president) Tom Meeker I got short-changed,” Kaelin said with a laugh. “The race was just $50,000 then.”

Kaelin saddled Vodika Collins to victory in the first two runnings of the Stephen Foster in 1982 and 1983, well before the race was a handicap and achieved graded stakes status. Vodika Collins earned $38,610 for winning the 1982 Stephen Foster and $35,587 the following year.

Vodika Collins, a son of Vodika, was bred by his owner M.B. Collins.

“My brother claimed the mare (Ruthie G.) for $5,000, I think off Clarence Picou,” said Kaelin, who trained Vodika who was knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail in 1973 by a colic attack that turned into a liver problem. “I told the owner he could breed to Vodika for free and Vodika Collins was her first foal.”
Vodika Collins produced immediate results.

"i never ran him in a maiden race,” Kaelin said. “His first race, I ran him in an allowance race at Turfway Park (then Latonia) and he won as the favorite. He made nearly $600,000 and that was a lot of money back then.”

tthree-time stakes winner at Churchill Downs, Vodika Collins compiled a career mark of 56-18-12-12 for earnings of $581,171.

FAST FACTS FOR STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP FANS

  • Three horses used victories in the Stephen Foster as part of their resumes in Horse of the Year campaigns. The three are Black Tie Affair (1991), Saint Liam (2005) and Curlin (2008).
  • Victory Gallop owns the stakes and track record for 1 1/8 miles of 1:47.28 established in 1999.
  • Jockey Robby Albarado has won the past three runnings of the Stephen Foster with Flashy Bull (2007), Curlin (2008) and Macho Again (2009).
  • Pat Day and Robby Albarado have won the Stephen Foster three times to lead all riders. Day’s Foster victories came in 1985 (Vanlandingham), 1998 (Awesome Again) and 2003 (Perfect Drift).
  • Two horses have won the Stephen Foster in consecutive years: Vodika Collins (1982-83) and Recoup The Cash (1994-95).
  • Three trainers have won the Stephen Foster twice and all did it in consecutive years: Forrest Kaelin (1982-83 with Vodika Collins), Jere Smith Jr. (1994-95 with Recoup The Cash) and Pat Byrne (1997-98 with City by Night and Awesome Again).
  • Three horses have won the Stephen Foster and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year.  Black Tie Affair (1991) and Awesome Again (1998) won both races at Churchill Downs. Saint Liam won his running of the Classic at Belmont Park.  The 2010 renewal of the $5 million Classic is scheduled for Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.
  • Curlin (2008) carried the highest impost of any Stephen Foster winner: 128 pounds.
  • Colonial Colony (2004) carried the lightest winning Foster impost at 111 pounds.
  •  The Stephen Foster Handicap was elevated to Grade I status in 2002.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS SHINE CHURCHILL DOWNS STYLE – The first “Downs After Dark” program under permanent lightning attracted a crowd of 25,102 to Churchill Downs on Friday night.

There were three “Downs After Dark” cards last spring under temporary lights, but Friday night was the first time jockey Francisco Torres had experienced a night card beneath the Twin Spires.

“I loved it,” said Torres, who rode Speight the Halo to victory in the second race for trainer Greg Foley. “It was exciting and there were a lot of people having a good time. It was great.”

Foley, in his fourth decade on the Churchill Downs backstretch, notched his 11th victory of the meet, good for a tie for third in the trainer standings.

“They got the people here last night and that’s the thing that count,” said Foley, 10th all-time among Churchill Downs trainers with 318 wins. “That’s the whole idea.”

Buff Bradley, who sent out Janou to a runner-up finish in the ninth race, liked the energetic crowd.

“I don’t know how much they bet, but if they had a good time, people may be inclined to come back,”

Bradley said. “They may not be with groups like they were last night, but if it is easy to get around Churchill Downs, which is pretty big and can be imposing, people will come back.”

"The final shot of the night on the equine side came from Rajpur Road, winner of the 11th race that went off at 11:16 p.m.

Our biggest win since the Belmont,” deadpanned Kenny McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott who saddled Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Drosselmeyer last Saturday. “A win is a win and it is a whole lot better than running second.”

The victory gave Mott his 631st triumph at Churchill Downs, which is the all-time best. Rajpur Road was ridden by Larry Melancon, who elevated his all-time Churchill Downs victory total to 914, good for fourth in track history. Immediately ahead of Melancon is Don Brumfield, who had 925 victories here.

BARN TALK – Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said that Razmataz, winner of Friday night’s fourth race, could return in the $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes (GIII) on July 3. “We should know in the next day or two,” McCarthy said of the stake for Razmataz, who gave Pletcher his 100th Churchill Downs victory. …

With two-thirds of the 42-day Spring Meet in the books, Maggi Moss has the lead in the race for leading owner with six victories. Moss, who was the leading owner here for the 2007 Spring Meet, has one runner entered Saturday: Dartangia in the second race. Moss has a one-win advantage on the Amerman Racing Stable of Mr. and Mrs. John Amerman. …

ominations close Saturday for the 110th running of the $100,000-added Debutante (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs on the main track. Last year’s Debutante was won by Decelerator for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

WORK TAB – Inside Information (GII) winner Warbling worked a half-mile in :47.80 over a track labeled as “good” for the fourth fastest work of 50 at the distance Saturday morning.

JOCKEY TRADING CARD GIVEAWAY, AUTOGRAPH SESSION SLATED SUNDAY -- The first 2,500 guests to arrive on Sunday, June 13 will receive a free set of jockey trading cards. Gates will open at 11 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday with the trading cards being distributed at Gates 1, 10, and 17.

The cards feature a mixture of current and Hall of Fame jockeys not limited to Churchill Downs’ current jockey colony. Churchill Downs jockeys will be available for an autograph session in the Paddock Pavilion from 11 a.m. to noon.

OFFICIAL LIMITED EDITION RON TURCOTTE BOBBLEHEAD SALES SET SUNDAY -- Official limited edition Ron Turcotte bobbleheads will be on sale between the Churchill Downs store and Gate 17 from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 13.

Turcotte, who won the Triple Crown aboard Secretariat in 1973, will be on site to autograph and sell his limited edition bobbleheads.

Only 1,973 of these bobbleheads were manufactured with 500 being available for purchase at $50 each. A portion of the funds raised from the sale will be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

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