Canadian-invader Breaking Lucky will attempt to avenge his loss to Gun Runner in last year’s $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) in Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE Appliances (GI) at Churchill Downs.
“I love coming to Louisville,” trainer Reade Baker said. “This city is a lot different than Canada but Breaking Lucky loves it here as well.”
The 5-year-old horse by Lookin At Lucky finished 2 ¾ lengths behind Gun Runner in last year’s Clark but will give it another try Saturday to dethrone the No. 4 ranked horse in the world.
“Gun Runner keeps getting better,” Baker said. “I just hope we can sit a close trip off of the speed and get lucky to get the jump on him. Breaking Lucky loves the surface here. He’s run well before and hopefully he takes to it again Saturday night.”
Jockey Luis Contreras also will make the trip from north of the border and has the call to ride Breaking Lucky.
Breaking Lucky has a 19-3-5-3 record with $953,776 in earnings.
The Stephen Foster Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weights and morning line odds): Bird Song (Julien Leparoux, 119 pounds, 6-1); Breaking Lucky (Contreras, 117, 8-1); Gun Runner (Florent Geroux, 124, 4-5); Honorable Duty (Javier Castellano, 119, 6-1); Mo Tom (Corey Lanerie, 115, 20-1); Hawaakom (Miguel Mena, 115, 12-1); Texas Chrome (C.J. McMahon, 117, 12-1); and Stanford (John Velazquez, 117, 5-1).
The Stephen Foster Handicap is the centerpiece of an action-packed, prime-time program billed as “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and el Jimador.” The Stephen Foster Handicap is the richest of five graded stakes races on Saturday’s special 11-race night racing card that begins at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern). Total purses on the evening are $1.358 million, which makes it the most lucrative racing day for horsemen at Churchill Downs outside of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks programs.
The Stephen Foster Handicap has been carded as Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. NBCSN will televise the race from 8:30-10 p.m. to launch its 2017 “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing” television schedule. Also, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will air live coverage from 8-10 p.m. ET on SiriusXM channel 108 and online at www.horseracingradio.net.
Other stakes events scheduled on the night are the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (GII) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles headlined by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) third Forever Unbridled; the $200,000 Wise Dan (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf led by defending champ Pleuven (Fr); the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles featuring three-time graded stakes winner McCraken, who finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby (GI) at odds of 6-1; and a well-matched cast of a dozen 3-year-old fillies in the $100,000 Regret Presented by Cox’s Smokers Outlet (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on grass.
Admission gates will open Saturday at 5 p.m. and the first of 11 races will begin at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern). The final live race will be 11:10 p.m. but the on-track party will continue in the spacious Plaza area until midnight.
FOREVER UNBRIDLED SET FOR 2017 DEBUT IN SATURDAYS $200,000 FLEUR DE LIS ’CAP – Charles Fipke’s Forever Unbridled has been away from the races for 225 days but is set to make her 5-year-old bow in Saturday’s $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (Grade II).
“She’s been doing great,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “I wish we would’ve gotten a little more time with her training but I think this is a good spot to bring her back.”
The classy 5-year-old mare by Unbridled’s Song was narrowly defeated in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff by Eclipse Award-winners Beholder and Songbird. Following the race, Forever Unbridled had a bone chip removed from her left-front ankle but has been in steady training since late April.
“The main thing I’m concerned with is the 1 1/8-mile distance Saturday,” Stewart said. “We toyed with the idea of running her next weekend in the $100,000 Chicago Handicap (at seven furlongs) but we think this spot will work as well.”
Joel Rosario, who has been aboard Forever Unbridled in her last four starts, will fly from Belmont Park to Churchill Downs Saturday night and has the call on the Fipke homebred.
Forever Unbridled has a career record of 14-5-3-4 and $1,591,600 in earnings.
The Fleur de Lis – which means “Flower of the Lily” and honors the French symbol that is incorporated into the city of Louisville’s flag – will be run as Race 7 at 9:09 p.m. (all times Eastern). It will be televised live by NBCSN as part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing” broadcast that airs from 8:30-10 p.m.
The Fleur de Lis Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weights and morning line odds): Forever Unbridled (Joel Rosario, 123 pounds, 4-5); Walkabout (Brian Hernandez Jr., 120, 10-1); Carrumba (John Velazquez, 117, 6-1); Crooked Stick (Sophie Doyle, 115, 30-1); Big World (Florent Geroux, 121, 6-1); Romantic Vision (Julien Leparoux, 118, 8-1); Apologynotaccepted (Luis Saez, 117, 15-1); Tiger Moth (Javier Castellano, 114, 12-1); and Weep No More (Corey Lanerie, 116, 10-1).
COX HOPES CHOCOLATE RIDE PLAYS ‘CATCH ME IF YOU CAN’ IN WISE DAN – GenStar Thoroughbreds’ Chocolate Ride, a nine-time winner, could be close to the pace in Saturday’s $200,000 Wise Dan (GII).
“On paper we may be a bit overmatched,” trainer Brad Cox said. “Maybe we’ll be able to steal it on the front end with Shaun (Bridgmohan). Overall this card is really good, so it should be a great night of racing.”
Chocolate Ride was a two-length allowance winner on May 18 at Churchill Downs with Bridgmohan aboard. The 7-year-old grey son of Candy Ride (ARG) has four graded-stakes wins on his résumé that includes nine wins, two second-place finishes and three thirds in 23 starts.
The Wise Dan, run at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course, will go as Race 6 at 8:35 p.m.
The Wise Dan field from the rail out (with jockeys and morning line odds): Security Risk (John Velazquez, 5-1); Bondurant (Brian Hernandez Jr., 8-1); Thatcher Street (Julien Leparoux, 4-1); Chocolate Ride (Shaun Bridgmohan, 5-1); Kasaqui (ARG) (James Graham, 6-1); Conquest Panthera (Robby Albarado, 6-1); Pleuven (FR) (Corey Lanerie, 3-1); and Blofeld (Joel Rosario, 10-1).
All horses will carry 121 pounds.
COLONELSDARKTEMPER SEEKS FIRST STAKES VICTORY IN MATT WINN – A.J. Foyt Jr.’s Colonelsdarktemper, a gutsy-allowance winner nearly three weeks ago at Churchill Downs, will attempt stakes company for the third time in his career in Saturday’s $100,000 Matt Winn (Grade III).
“He’s a super horse,” said jockey Jon Court, who has ridden Colonelsdarktemper in all five of his starts. “I think he’s one of the better horses I’m riding right now and this is a great spot for him.”
Colonelsdarktemper, a 3-year-old colt by Colonel John trained by veteran Jinks Fires, enters the Matt Winn with two victories and one third-place finish with $92,000 in earnings.
“It’s a bit of a tough race overall with McCraken,” Court said. “That horse is a very nice looking colt for Ian (Wilkes). Hopefully we can just get a better trip than him.”
Colonelsdarktemper will attempt to become Fires first graded stakes winner at Churchill Downs.
The Matt Winn field from rail out (with jockeys and morning line odds): Excitations (Miguel Mena, 9-2); McCraken (Brian Hernandez Jr., 4-5); Colonelsdarktemper (Court, 4-1); Mo’s Mojo (Julien Leparoux, 10-1); Aquamarine (Florent Geroux, 5-1); and Society Beau (Robby Albarado, 12-1).
McCraken will carry 123 pounds, while all others tote 118.
The Matt Winn, which honors the famed Churchill Downs president and general manager that served as the driving force in the development of Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby, will go as Race 5 on Saturday at approximately 8:03 p.m. (all times Eastern). Winn will be elected into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame as a “Pillar of the Turf” on Aug. 4.
SWEEPING PADDY EYES FIRST STAKES VICTORY IN $100,000 REGRET – William Pacella, Frank Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Sweeping Paddy will attempt to notch her second career victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Regret Stakes Presented by Cox’s Smokers Outlets (Grade III).
“She’s been doing really well,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It’s always special to have a nice horse like this in a stakes race for these owners. Frank Jones has been like a father figure to me. He was in the hospital when I was born and was close friends with my father (Jerry) growing up. With this weekend being Father’s Day, it would be special if we can get her home.”
Sweeping Paddy, a daughter of Paddy O’Prado, has one career victory as a 2-year-old but has finished in the top three four times in her eight race career. Jockey Luis Saez has the return call on Sweeping Paddy, who was defeated 3 ¼ lengths in the $150,000 Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank (GIII) at odds of 22-1.
The Regret, the final stakes race on Saturday’s program, is carded as Race 9 with a post time of approximately 10:15 p.m.
The Regret field from the rail out (with jockeys and morning line odds): Blame the Law (Joel Rosario, 15-1); Sweeping Paddy (Saez, 4-1); La Manta Gris (Julien Leparoux, 15-1); Proctor’s Ledge (Corey Lanerie, 7-2); Like a Hurricane (Brian Hernandez Jr., 12-1); Anothertequilashot (Gabriel Saez, 30-1); Summer Luck (Florent Geroux, 10-1); Savannah Belle (Declan Cannon, 12-1); Sameeha (Joe Rocco Jr., 8-1); Fizzy Friday (GB) (John Velazquez, 10-1); Starr Bear (Javier Castellano, 8-1); and Chubby Star (Ricardo Santana Jr., 5-1).
LEPAROUX SCORES 800TH VICTORY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Jockey Julien Leparoux, No. 8 in all-time victories at Churchill Downs, rode his 800th winner beneath the Twin Spires in Thursday’s third race.
“I’ve won so many memorable races at Churchill,” Leparoux said. “I didn’t realize I had that many wins here but it’s very special. Hopefully I have many, many more to come.”
Leparoux, 33, recently moved to No. 3 all-time with 62 stakes victories at Churchill Downs, 20 behind Robby Albarado and 94 behind all-time leading rider Pat Day.
A native of France, Leparoux’s 800th victory came aboard Sir Dudley Digges in a thrilling photo finish with Chip Leader in a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance race.
Sir Dudley Digges returned $4.40, $2.80, and $2.10.
MENA REACHES 400 WINS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Jockey Miguel Mena scored his 400th career victory in Thursday’s eighth and final race aboard Bella Bella for trainer Grant Forster.
“I didn’t realize I was sitting on 400 wins,” Mena said. “This is pretty cool. We finished last week with a very good Sunday and started this week strong. Hopefully the momentum continues to this weekend.”
Mena, 33, is scheduled to ride Hawaakom in Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE Appliances (Grade I).
BRISSET RECORDS FIRST CAREER VICTORY THURSDAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Rodolphe Brisset, the longtime assistant trainer to Bill Mott, notched his first victory as a trainer in Thursday’s fifth race at Churchill Downs.
“It’s very special to get my first win at Churchill Downs,” Brisset said. “Hopefully this is the first of many to come. Being teamed up with Julien (Leparoux) makes this even more special.”
Lady Soul, a 4-year-old daughter by Speightstown, was a 2 ¾-length victor in Churchill Downs’ third race, a $40,000 maiden claiming event at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt with Leparoux aboard.
The filly returned $9.60, $4.80 and $3.60.
Brisset, 33, began training on his own April 1 and is based at Keeneland.
DOWNS AFTER DARK THEME IS ‘SOUTH BEACH’ – One of Louisville’s biggest summer parties returns in earnest to Churchill Downs on Saturday as the home of the Kentucky Derby welcomes back its wildly-popular “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and el Jimador” nighttime racing program for Stephen Foster Handicap night. The evening’s theme is “South Beach” and guests are encouraged to dress in Miami-inspired bright colors.
General admission to Churchill Downs is $10 on Saturday. Box seats are $25 and reserved dining packages are $70. New this year is the Guest Chef Series @ Millionaire’s Row, which will showcase Chef Anthony Lamas of Louisville’s popular Latin restaurant Seviche. The $149 tickets include a specially-designed menu by Lamas and a full-bar package featuring specialty cocktails by el Jimador Tequila. All ticket options can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
The evening’s entertainment includes music on the Plaza Stage courtesy of Milenio Salsa Band from 7:30-11 p.m., Salsa dance demonstrations, cocktail demonstrations by el Jimador, a “James Beard Culinary Challenge” and “Bet or No Bet” where four lucky fans can take $100 in cash or place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in Races 6-9. The party will be elevated to new levels at 11 p.m. when popular DJ A-trak mixes sounds on the turntable until midnight on the Plaza Stage.
Admission gates will open Saturday at 5 p.m. and the first of 11 races will begin at 6 p.m. The final live race will be 11:14 p.m. but the on-track party will continue in the spacious Plaza area until midnight.
FOSTER, FLEUR DE LIS PART OF BREEDERS’ CUP ‘WIN AND YOU’RE IN’ SERIES – Both the 36th running of $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE Appliances (Grade I) and 42nd running of the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (GII) are part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. The winners of the Foster and Fleur de Lis will be assured berths in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff starting gates, respectively, this November at Del Mar. The Foster is the first U.S. “Win and You’re In” for the 1 ¼-mile Classic.
BREEDERS’ CUP BETTING CHALLENGE QUALIFIER ON STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP NIGHT – Some of the nation’s elite horseplayers will descend upon Churchill Downs on Saturday night and attempt to secure seats at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge as they pit their handicapping skills against the best Louisville has to offer.
Churchill Downs’ Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Live Bankroll Qualifier is a “real money” handicapping tournament with a $2,000 buy-in, of which $1,500 will be used by participants to wager on Saturday night’s 11-race Stephen Foster Handicap card with the other $500 going toward the entry fee and prize pool. Wager types permitted are Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta and Daily Double only.
The top two finishers in the satellite tournament will receive $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seats for the Nov. 3-4 event at Del Mar plus a $1,000 travel voucher. The third-place finisher will receive a $2,500 partial BCBC entry and $500 travel voucher.
Saturday’s prize pool is based on 50 entries. All entry fees will be paid back to prize pool should more than 50 entries participate. Horseplayers can register by emailing Gary Palmisano at Gary.Palmisano@KyDerby.com.
Same as the qualifier, the BCBC is a “real money” handicapping challenge. Players will required to deposit $10,000, of which $7,500 will be the players’ bankroll for wagering during the tournament. Of the $10,000 buy-in, $2,500 will be placed in the prize pool. If 400 players enter the tournament, the cash prize pool paid will be $1 million.
ALL-STAKES PICK 5 TO BE OFFERED SATURDAY NIGHT – Churchill Downs will make it a special night for bettors at Saturday’s “Downs After Dark” as the track offers an all-stakes Pick 5 as part of its special wagering menu.
The all-stakes Pick 5 will cover Races 5-9 starting at 8:03 p.m., which will encompass the Matt Winn (Race 5), Wise Dan (Race 6), Fleur de Lis Handicap (Race 7), Stephen Foster Handicap (Race 8) and Regret (Race 9). There also will be an all-stakes Pick 4 on Races 6-9.
All told, there will be three Pick 5s (Races 2-6, Races 5-9 and Races 7-11) and three Pick 4s (Races 1-4, Races 6-9 and Races 8-11) on the night.
Both the Pick 4 and Pick 5 are 50-cent minimum bets.
The 20-cent minimum Single-6 Jackpot will cover Races 4-9. The jackpot carryover for a lone winning ticket was $96,299 entering Thursday’s eight-race program, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
ENGRAVED KENTUCKY DERBY 143 TROPHIES TO BE PRESENTED SATURDAY – Select connections from Team Always Dreaming – owners MeB Racing Stables (Mary Ellen Bonomo), Brooklyn Boyz Stables (Anthony Bonomo), Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stable (Vincent Viola), Siena Farm LLC (Anthony Manganaro) and West Point Thoroughbreds (Terry Finley), breeders Santa Rosa Partners, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez – will be on hand to accept their newly-engraved Kentucky Derby 143 trophies for the Bodemeister colt’s triumph in America’s greatest race on May 6.
The ceremony in the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle, which includes an unveiling of the official event logo for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. just after the conclusion of Race 6.
Fans in attendance will be able to take pictures with Always Dreaming’s engraved Kentucky Derby 143 trophies as they’ll be on display inside the Gate 17 lobby from 5-7 p.m.
WEATHER: PARTLY SUNNY SKIES, 92 – According to the National Weather Service, Saturday’s forecast for Louisville calls for partly sunny skies with a high near 92 and a 20-percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11 a.m. The low will be around 74.
SPECIAL FATHER’S DAY COMBO – Churchill Downs is offering a special $15 Father’s Day Combo for Sunday, which includes a reserved box seat, official program and a voucher for a domestic draft beer or souvenir soda and a hot dog. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
MILESTONE WATCH – Trainer “Buff” Bradley will attempt to win his 100th race at Churchill Downs on Saturday with longshot Numbers Game in the 10th race … Trainer Dale Romans (690 victories) is 11 wins behind Churchill Downs’ all-time leading trainer Bill Mott (701).
DOWN THE STRETCH – The hosts of “Inside Churchill Downs” – Churchill Downs Racetrack’s John Asher, Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein – will preview Saturday’s “Downs After Dark” racing action with special guests on their 10-11 a.m. show that airs every Saturday on ESPN 680/105.7. Those outside the Louisville area can listen live online at http://www.espnlouisville.com/ or download a podcast of the show after its completion. … Churchill Downs has a special Stakes & Eggs brunch in the Stakes Room on Sunday for $45 ($22 for children 12 and under). Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets. … The “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” returns Sunday. Interested participants can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) for a chance to win the $1,000 cash voucher first prize by placing mythical $2 win and place bets on Races 3-8. Second place receives a $500 voucher and third place is worth a $200 voucher. Registration takes place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the Clubhouse second floor at the top of the Gate 17 escalators.