The 37th running of the Grade I, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap is the centerpiece of five graded stakes events for Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser on Saturday, June 16 at Churchill Downs.

“The Stephen Foster is one of those races that every horseman wants to win,” said locally-based trainer Wes Hawley, who is expected to start Alysheba (GII) runner-up Hawaakom in the 1 1/8-mile race. “I wanted to run in this race last year and ever since then I’ve been excited to target it for Hawaakom.”

Other known probable entrants for the Stephen Foster include Alysheba winner Backyard Heaven; 2017 Stephen Foster runner-up Honorable Duty; Pimlico Special (GIII) winner Irish War Cry; Razorback Handicap (GIII) runner-up Leofric; 2017 Kentucky Derby (GI) runner-up Lookin At Lee; and 2017 Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up Patch.

Also on the 11-race Downs After Dark card that kicks off at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern) is the 43rd running of the Grade II, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. Probable entrants include 2017 Beldame (GI) and Alabama (GI) winner Elate; La Troienne (GII) runner-up Farrell; DuPont Distaff (GIII) third Fuhriously Kissed; and DuPont Distaff winner Song of Spring.

“We’re all geared up and ready to go,” trainer Wayne Catalano said of his Fleur de Lis probable entrant Farrell. “She breezed an old-school seven furlongs (Thursday) morning in 1:27.20. She galloped out one mile in 1:41 and change. You don’t see many horses who can do it as easily as she did. We’re ready to see what she’s got in the Fleur de Lis.”

Both the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Presented by America’s Best Racing that consists of the best races from around the world. The winners of the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis will receive a free entry to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI), respectively, on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. The two races will be televised June 16 on NBCSN beginning at 8:30 p.m.

Three other stakes events highlight the card that will be drawn on Wednesday, June 13: the 29th running of the $200,000 Wise Dan (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course; the 21st running of the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds contested at 1 1/16 miles on the main track; and the 49th running of the $100,000 Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Below are some of the early probable entrants for the Wise Dan, Matt Winn and Regret:

  • Wise Dan: Mr Cub, Mr. Misunderstood and Parlor
  • Matt Winn: Combatant, Home Base, King Zachary, Quip and Tiz Mischief
  • Regret: Go Google Yourself, Kabella, Secret Message, She’s Pretty Lucky and Stave

LOVELY BERNADETTE HOPES TO ‘GET BACK ON TRACK’ AS 3-1 MORNING LINE FAVORITE IN SATURDAY’S $100,000 OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP HANDICAP James Miller’s multiple graded stakes-winning filly Lovely Bernadette, a recent transfer to the barn of trainer Bernie Flint, is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the field of 11 fillies and mares that were entered in Saturday’s 42nd running of the $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.

“We got her in the barn the other month and we’ve been really excited to run her Saturday,” Flint’s longtime assistant Georgia Jackson said. “She ran against some really tough fields to start her 4-year-old campaign but we’re hoping Saturday’s race gives her some confidence going forward and we can get back on track.”

Lovely Bernadette (16-7-0-3—$509,579) reeled off three consecutive victories to close her 2017 campaign in the Sept. 6 Indiana Grand Stakes, Oct. 20 Valley View (GIII) at Keeneland and Nov. 24 Mrs. Revere (GII) at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Wilburn began her 4-year-old campaign slowly with disappointing efforts in the March 10 Hillsborough (GII) at Tampa Bay Downs and the April 14 Jenny Wiley (GI) at Keeneland but will attempt to give Flint his second victory in the Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap. Flint won the race in 2014 with Honey Hues.

“It was great when we won this race back in 2014,” Jackson said. “(Lovely Bernadette) has really been training well and I think we have a good shot to win.”

Jockey Corey Lanerie has the call on Lovely Bernadette as the 119-pound starting high weight and will break from post 3.

The field for the Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap from the rail out (with jockey, assigned weight and morning line odds): Res Ipsa (Declan Cannon, 117 pounds, 7-2); Red Dane (ITY) (Gabriel Saez, 113, 15-1); Lovely Bernadette (Lanerie, 119, 3-1); Celestial Insight (Joe Rocco Jr., 116, 4-1); Inchargeofme (GB) (Adam Beschizza, 115, 20-1); Sully’s Dream (Jack Gilligan, 116, 4-1); Ministry (Edgar Morales, 114, 20-1); Youngest Daughter (Jon Court, 114, 20-1); Dubara (GB) (Calvin Borel, 115, 20-1); Inveniam Viam (James Graham, 115, 8-1); and Victory to Victory (Shaun Bridgmohan, 117, 10-1).

The Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile test over the Matt Winn Turf Course, has been carded as the finale on Saturday’s 11-race program with a post time of 5:58 p.m. (all times Eastern). Churchill Downs’ traditional early June stakes event serves as a prelude to a simulcast of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) from New York’s Belmont Park as Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify bids to become horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner.

The Belmont Stakes will be shown on Churchill Downs’ massive outdoor “Big Board” and other television monitors throughout the facility after the final race at approximately 6:46 p.m. Post time for the first race at Churchill Downs is 12:45 p.m. and admission gates will open early at 11:15 a.m. for the first of 13 simulcast races from Belmont Park, which starts at 11:35 a.m.

MEET LEADERS – Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. maintained a 31-25 lead over 15-time Churchill Downs leading rider Corey Lanerie in the jockey standings through 24 days of the 38-day Spring Meet. Florent Geroux was third with 21 wins while Ricardo Santana Jr. sat in fourth with 16 victories, Julien Leparoux rounded out the Top 5 with 15 wins. … Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen held a four-win cushion over second place Brad Cox in the trainer standings, 16-12. Kenny McPeek was third with 11 wins and Eddie Kenneally, Mike Tomlinson and Ian Wilkes were tied for fourth with 10 victories each. … Churchill Downs all-time leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey had a 5-4 lead over Gary and Mary West in the owner’s standings. Whitham Thoroughbreds was third with three victories.

BELMONT STAKES DAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Fans are invited to root on Justify as the undefeated colt attempts to become the 13th Triple Crown winner in Saturday’s 150th Belmont Stakes (GI). The 13-race program at Belmont is a stakes bonanza with 10 overall, including six Grade I events. The action begins at 11:35 a.m. so Churchill Downs will open its admission gates early at 11:15 a.m. NYRA has three guaranteed wagering pools Saturday: a $500,000 Pick 5 (Races 1-5); $500,000 Pick 6 (Races 6-11 ending with the Belmont Stakes); and $1.5 million Pick 4 (Races 8-11).

The pomp of the Belmont Park action will be featured prominently at Churchill Downs on Saturday with the simulcast of the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes scheduled for 6:46 p.m. – which comes after the final live race at 5:58 p.m. Video and audio of a majority of the stakes races from Belmont will be shown between races on the track’s massive Big Board when they don’t conflict with live action.

NBCSN will air action from Belmont Park from 2-4 p.m. Belmont Stakes action shifts to NBC from 4-7 p.m.

Guests at Churchill Downs will have an opportunity to enjoy a New York-themed food and beverage offerings. Levy Restaurants will sell the Belmont Jewel – the official drink of the Belmont Stakes (includes Woodford Reserve, lemonade, pomegranate juice and an orange zest) – complete with a commemorative glass. Also, a New York pastrami sandwich will be sold at BBQ stands.

Last call for drinks on Saturday will be “Call to the Post” for the Belmont Stakes, and all dining rooms will remain open through the big race.

Advance wagering on Saturday’s 150th Belmont Stakes (Grade I) from Belmont Park will be offered all day Friday at Churchill Downs. Admission gates open Friday at 11:30 a.m. and the first of nine races is 12:45 p.m. General admission is $3.

Five stakes races are carded Friday for Belmont’s 11-race program, including the $600,000 New York (GII) for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf and $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (GII) for 4-year-olds and up at two miles on the Widener Turf Course. The two races go as Races 9 and 10 at 5:14 p.m. and 5:46 p.m., respectively, and will be televised on NBCSN from 5-6 p.m. Similar to Churchill Downs’ popular Oaks/Derby Double, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) will offer a pair of two-day doubles: the New York Stakes/Metropolitan Handicap Double, which has a $100,000 guarantee, and the $300,000 guaranteed Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes Double. There is also a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 from Belmont on Races 8-11.

DOWN THE STRETCH – The week ahead at Churchill Downs features a Thursday-Sunday racing week that kicks off with Twilight Thursday. The abbreviated eight-race program starts at 5 p.m. and is highlighted by $1 beers, live music on the Plaza stage by local folk band Bridge 19, food trucks and lawn games in The Plaza. There also is a massive $408,781 jackpot carryover for the 20-cent minimum Single-6 Jackpot on Races 3-8. … Friday is “Senior Day” at Churchill Downs with a first post of 12:45 p.m. Guests 60 and up can purchase discounted dining tickets to Millionaires Row which includes a Chef’s Table buffet. To purchase tickets for Senior Day, call (502) 636-4450. … The hosts of “Inside Churchill Downs” – Churchill Downs Racetrack’s John Asher, Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein – will preview Saturday’s Churchill Downs and Belmont Park racing action with special guests on their 6-7 p.m. show that airs every Friday 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. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets. … Congratulations to trainer Lon Wiggins for winning Barn of the Week honors. Wiggins and his staff will be honored with a Winner’s Circle recognition and pizza party.

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