Undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify is enjoying a Sunday’s rest at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. following his historic victory in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (Grade I) before he arrives back to Churchill Downs on Monday at approximately 2:30 p.m. (all times Eastern), according to Churchill Downs’ Director of the Stable Area Steve Hargrave.
Justify is booked on an H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company charter flight from MacArthur Airport in Islip, N.Y. at approximately 11:30 a.m. The plane is expected to land at Louisville International Airport between 1:45-2 p.m. The colt will then van approximately three miles to the backstretch of Churchill Downs and unload outside of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Barn 33 about 30 minutes after the flight lands.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing and ridden by Mike Smith, Justify held off the late charge of Gronkowski to win the Belmont Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths and become the 13th winner of racing’s Triple Crown, which included a 2 ½-length victory in Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and hard-fought half-length win in the Preakness Stakes (GI).
Justify is tentatively scheduled to return to his home base at Santa Anita Park in Southern California on Sunday, June 17.
Scheduled to arrive Sunday afternoon at Churchill Downs is Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Monomoy Girl, who easily defeated a field of five rivals in Saturday’s $700,000 Acorn Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park. The Brad Cox-trained filly is scheduled to return to Barn 23 at approximately 2 p.m.
Next Saturday’s Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser program will feature a Winner’s Circle ceremony where Justify’s owners, Baffert and Smith will receive their engraved Kentucky Derby trophies. The evening features five graded stakes events including the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).
The Stephen Foster Handicap will be televised live by NBCSN from 8:30-10 p.m.
MENA CONTINUES TO RECOVER FROM MULTIPLE FRACTURES IN RIGHT ANKLE, HOPES FOR SEPTEMBER RETURN – Jockey Miguel Mena continues to recover from multiple right ankle fractures that he suffered in a spill at Fair Grounds in March and hopes to return for the September Meet at Churchill Downs.
“I’m just ready to get back to action,” said Mena, who visited the Churchill Downs Jockey’s Room on Friday for the first time since his injury. “I am finally able to put some weight back on my foot. I had surgery in March but was in a pretty bulky brace until this week. I’m able to put on a regular shoe now, too. I’m going to continue rehabbing and getting stronger. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back for the September Meet.”
Mena, a regular rider at Churchill Downs, was one of the leading rider at Fair Grounds with 29 wins before his injury. The 31-year-old native of Peru has won 1,844 races in his 16-year career including the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) with Pool Play.
STAKES PROBABLES – Saturday’s Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser 11-race program is highlighted by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) and $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII). Both races are part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. The winner of the Stephen Foster receives an automatic berth to the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Classic while the Fleur de Lis victor receives a starting gate spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs.
Along with the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis, the 11-race card offers three other graded stakes events. Below are the known probable entrants for all five races, according to Churchill Downs assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Dan Bork (note: race order is tentative and subject to change):
Race 5 (7:57 p.m. ET) – $100,000 Matt Winn (Grade III), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, 21st running
Probable (with trainer): Combatant (Steve Asmussen); Home Base (Mike Tomlinson); King Zachary (Dale Romans); Quip (Rodolphe Brisset); and Tiz Mischief (Dale Romans)
Race 6 (8:30 p.m. ET) – $200,000 Wise Dan (Grade II), 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf, 29th running
Probable (with trainer): Mr Cub (Ian Wilkes); Mr. Misunderstood (Brad Cox); Parlor (Eddie Kenneally); and World Approval (Mark Casse)
Race 7 (9:05 p.m. ET) – $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (Grade II), fillies and mares, 1 1/8 miles, 43rd running
Probable (with trainer): Farrell (Wayne Catalano, 119 pounds); Valadorna (Mark Casse, 118); Song of Spring (Neil Howard, 117); and Fuhriously Kissed (Anthony Quartarolo, 115)
Race 8 (9:39 p.m. ET) – $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I), 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, 37th running
Probable (with trainer and assigned weight): Backyard Heaven (Chad Brown, 121 pounds), Irish War Cry (Graham Motion, 119); Honorable Duty (Brendan Walsh, 118); Hawaakom (Wes Hawley, 117); Pavel (Doug O’Neill, 117); Leofric (Brad Cox, 115); Lookin At Lee (Steve Asmussen, 115); and Uncle Mojo (Todd Pletcher, 114)
Race 9 (10:11 p.m. ET) – $100,000 Regret (Grade III), 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 miles on turf, 49th running
Probable (with trainer): Figarella’s Queen (Brad Cox); Go Google Yourself (Paul McGee); Heavenly Love (Mark Casse); Kabella (Dan Peitz); Secret Message (Graham Motion); Sassy Sienna (Cox); She’s Pretty Lucky (Eddie Kenneally); and Stave (Larry Jones)
DOWNS AFTER DARK THEME IS ‘ART OF THE HORSE’ – 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 Budweiser” nighttime racing program for Stephen Foster Handicap night. The evening’s theme is “Art of the Horse” and guests are encouraged to dress in pastels and bright colors to fit the art theme and summer weather.
General admission to Churchill Downs is $10 on Saturday. Box seats are $25 and reserved dining packages are $73. All ticket options can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
The evening’s entertainment includes music on the Plaza Stage courtesy of Free Soul Effect and Mojo Flo.
Additionally, there will be a Breeders’ Cup Artwork Exhibit. Churchill Downs, Breeders’ Cup Ltd. and Louisville Visual Art have partnered to create an opportunity for one local artist to be showcased as the Official Artist of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2-3. Five finalists will have their artwork on display in the Plaza on Saturday night and guests may vote for their favorite.
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 11:10 p.m.
FREE JUSTIFY PRINT TO FIRST 5,000 FANS ON SATURDAY – The first 5,000 fans in attendance Saturday night at Churchill Downs will receive a free commemorative print of Justify that celebrates his Triple Crown achievement.
GET YOUR PHOTO WITH THE KENTUCKY DERBY TROPHIES – Fans in attendance at Churchill Downs on Saturday will be able to take pictures with Justify’s engraved Kentucky Derby 144 trophies from 5-7 p.m. The exact location for guests to take their own pictures with the trophies will be announced this week.
FOSTER, FLEUR DE LIS PART OF BREEDERS’ CUP ‘WIN AND YOU’RE IN’ SERIES – Both the 37th running of $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) and 43rd running of the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (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 Churchill Downs. The Foster is the first U.S. “Win and You’re In” for the 1 ¼-mile Classic. Winning also means Breeders’ Cup pre-entry and entry fees will be covered and the connections will receive a travel award up to $10,000.
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 2018 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 $1,500 buy-in, of which $1,000 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. 2-3 event at Churchill Downs plus a $1,000 travel voucher. The third-place finisher will receive a $2,500 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 [email protected].
DOWN THE STRETCH – Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race card that gets underway at 12:45 p.m. There is a $439,360 carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot, which begins in Race 5 at approximately 2:45 p.m. … After dark days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, racing will resume Thursday with an eight-race Twilight Thursday program that features $1 beer, local food trucks and live music from Aaron Bibelhauser and RELIC. Gates open at 4 p.m. with the first post at 5 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.churchilldowns.com.