Charles E. Fipke’s 5-year-old homebred mare Forever Unbridled, who finished third behind champions Beholder and Songbird in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade I) at Santa Anita, will make her first start of the year as the 4-5 morning line favorite and 123-pound high weight for Saturday’s 42nd running of the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (GII) at Churchill Downs.
For the third year in a row, the 1 1/8-mile Fleur De Lis is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” stakes event, which means the winner will be guaranteed a berth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Del Mar on Nov. 3.
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.
Forever Unbridled, trained by Dallas Stewart, will face a eight other fillies and mares in the 1 1/8-mile race that will mark her first start since undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip from her left front ankle after the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She had been under consideration for start in the $100,000 Chicago Handicap (GIII), a seven-furlong sprint for females at Churchill Downs on June 24, but Stewart opted to make her comeback here.
“Obviously getting her back in top shape for the Breeders’ Cup is the main goal so we’ll keep our options open and hope for the best,” Stewart said.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled Song and 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever had an outstanding 4-year-old campaign with Grade I wins in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park and $400,000 Beldame at Belmont Park.
Overall, Forever Unbridled, who’ll break from the rail under Joel Rosario, boasts a 14-5-3-4—$1,591,600 career record.
Also expected to draw support are Big World and Romantic Vision, who finished 1-2 in the $300,000 La Troienne Presented by Spirited Funds (GI) on Kentucky Oaks Day; Allaire DuPont Distaff (GIII) runner-up Carrumba; and Matron (GIII) winner Walkabout.
The Fleur de Lis Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weights and morning line odds): Forever Unbridled (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).
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.