Hronis Racing’s Gift Box arrived at Churchill Downs on Tuesday to begin preparing for Saturday night’s 38th running of the $600,000 Stephen Foster Presented by GE Appliances (Grade II) – the centerpiece of an action-packed, prime-time program at Churchill Downs billed as “Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser.”
“He’s really taken to Churchill Downs well since he’s arrived,” said former jockey Juan Leyva, now the assistant to trainer John Sadler. “I absolutely love coming here. With 12 horses entering the Stephen Foster it didn’t come up easy by any means but we’re confident our horse is ready to run a big effort. It’s been great getting him in the (Churchill Downs Stakes) barn. He shows so much grit and determination every time he runs.”
Gift Box, who was made the 3-1 morning line favorite by veteran oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, won the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap by a scant nose over McKinzie on April 6. The 6-year-old son of Tapit was transferred to Sadler’s care in mid-2018 from trainer Chad Brown. Since Sadler began training Gift Box, he’s reeled off a half-length score in the $300,000 San Antonio (GII) on Dec. 26 and, most recently, finished second to Vino Rosso in the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) on May 27.
Sadler is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Saturday for the Stephen Foster, according to Leyva.
Recent Belmont Stakes (GI)-winning jockey Joel Rosario is scheduled to fly into Kentucky to ride Gift Box, who drew post No. 6 in the field of 12 older horses. Rosario has been the regular rider of Gift Box since he was transferred to Sadler’s care.
Gift Box galloped about 1 ½ miles early Thursday morning at Churchill Downs prior to schooling in the paddock.
The 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster is the richest of six 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 more than $1.8 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 has been carded as Race 8 at 9:47 p.m. NBCSN will televise the race from 8:30-10 p.m. as part of its 2019 “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In presented by America’s Best Racing” television schedule. Also, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will air live coverage on SiriusXM 156 from 8-10 p.m. and TVG will provide live on-site updates throughout the evening.
The complete Stephen Foster field (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Thirstforlife (Miguel Mena, Wes Hawley, 15-1); Rated R Superstar (Rodney Prescott, Cipriano Contreras, 20-1); Runaway Ghost (Julien Leparoux, Joe Peacock, 20-1); Seeking the Soul (John Velazquez, Dallas Stewart, 4-1); Alkhaatam (Channing Hill, Danny Peitz, 30-1); Gift Box (Rosario, Sadler, 3-1); Tenfold (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 12-1); King Zachary (Javier Castellano, Graham Motion, 12-1); Tom’s d’Etat (Shaun Bridgmohan, Al Stall Jr., 5-1); Quip (Florent Geroux, Rodolphe Brisset, 10-1); Exulting (Tyler Gaffalione, Mike Maker, 20-1); and Yoshida (JPN) (Jose Ortiz, Bill Mott, 7-2).
All horses will tote 121 pounds with the exception of Gift Box (125 lbs.) and Quip (123 lbs.).
Other stakes events scheduled on the night are the $250,000 Fleur de Lis Presented by Budweiser (GII) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles headlined by La Troienne (GI) winner She’s a Julie along with multiple Grade I-winners Elate and Blue Prize (ARG); the $250,000 Wise Dan (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf with an over-subscribed field of 15 horses including seven-time Grade II winner Itsinthepost (FR); the $150,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles featuring Pat Day Mile (GIII) hero Mr. Money; a well-matched cast of 11 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Regret (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on grass; and the $100,000 President of the UAE Cup Sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs (GI) for Arabian 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.
ELATE 8-5 MORNING LINE FAVORITE IN FLEUR DE LIS – Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s two-time Grade I-winning mare Elate was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite to take on five other fillies and mares in Saturday’s 44th running of the $250,000 Fleur de Lis presented by Budweiser (GII) at Churchill Downs.
The 5-year-old mare by Medaglia d’Oro most recently finished third in the Apple Blossom (GI) after she finished second in the Azeri (GII) at Oaklawn Park to begin her 2019 campaign. Elate had a spectacular 3-year-old season with victories in the Alabama (GI) and Beldame (GI). Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Elate began her 4-year-old campaign with a 3 ¼-length score in the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap (GII) and finished a neck behind Abel Tasman in the Personal Ensign (GI) before missing the remainder of 2018 with a minor injury to her left foreleg.
“She ran a credible race in the Apple Blossom but I don’t think it was her best effort,” Mott said. “I don’t know if it was her best distance. She’s been brilliant at nine furlongs throughout her career.”
The Fleur de Lis field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Skeptic (Brian Hernandez Jr., Rusty Arnold, 10-1); She’s a Julie (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 2-1); Elate (Ortiz, Mott, 8-5); Go Google Yourself (Gabriel Saez, Paul McGee, 12-1); Blue Prize (ARG) (Javier Castellano, Ignacio Correas IV, 2-1); Auspicious Babe (Florent Geroux, Dallas Stewart, 15-1). All horses will tote 120 pounds except She’s a Julie (124 lbs.).
For the fifth 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 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Nov. 2.
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 9:12 p.m. (all times Eastern). It will be televised live on NBCSN from 8:30-10 p.m.
OUTSIDE DRAW NOT HURTING LANDEROS’ CONFIDENCE IN BOURBON RESOLUTION – An over-subscribed field of 14 horses will headline Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Wise Dan (Grade II) on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course. One of the likely contenders in the field is Bourbon Lane Stable’s Ben Ali (GIII) winner Bourbon Resolution, who will test the turf for the first time while breaking from the far outside post under jockey Chris Landeros.
“It’s not the best post we could’ve gotten but it’s not the end of the world either,” Landeros said. “I’ll likely have to use a little bit of his speed to try and cross over before the run into the first turn. He’s naturally fast which will help us, and since the rail will be down that night, that is another positive. Races are different to ride on the turf with the rail out. You normally have trouble closing ground with the rail out as it tends to play to speed. The way Bourbon Resolution’s worked over this course gets me excited for his chances at running in the Wise Dan.”
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Bourbon Resolution is 10-1 on the morning line odds.
Veteran oddsmaker Mike Battaglia slated Dixie Stakes (GII) runner-up Admission Office and multiple Grade II winner Itsinthepost (FR) as the co-favorites at 5-1 on the morning line. The complete Wise Dan field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Get Western (Julien Leparoux, Charlie LoPresti, 50-1); All Right (Adam Beschizza, John Ortiz, 30-1); First Premio (Brian Hernandez Jr., Mark Casse, 8-1): Hot Springs (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 10-1); Holiday Stone (Florent Geroux, Eddie Kenneally, 20-1); Siem Riep (James Graham, Ben Colebrook, 8-1); Itsinthepost (Tyler Baze, Jeff Mullins, 5-1); Noble Commander (Gabriel Saez, Phil D’Amato, 30-1); Inspector Lynley (Jose Ortiz, Shug McGaughey, 6-1); El Picaro (CHI) (Javier Castellano, Ignacio Correas IV, 12-1); March to the Arch (Tyler Gaffalione, Casse, 6-1); Admission Office (Joel Rosario, Brian Lynch, 5-1); Cullum Road (John Velazquez, Mike Maker, 6-1); and Bourbon Resolution (Landeros, Wilkes, 10-1). Also Eligible: Parlor (Corey Lanerie, Eddie Kenneally, 10-1).
The Wise Dan will go as Race 6 at 8:37 p.m.
The race formerly known as the Firecracker was renamed in 2016 to honor Mort Fink’s two-time Horse of the Year who completed a spectacular racing career with a perfect four-race season in 2014. The Charlie LoPresti-trained gelding by Wiseman’s Ferry compiled a remarkable lifetime record of 23-2-0 in 31 races with earnings of $7,552,920 from 2010-14.
‘ALL SYSTEMS GO’ FOR MR. MONEY AS 2-1 FAVORITE IN MATT WINN – Allied Racing Stables’ Pat Day Mile Presented by LG&E and KU (Grade III) winner Mr. Money was installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $150,000 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Mr. Money stormed home to a 5 ¼-length score in the Pat Day Mile at odds of 7-1. The son of Goldencents found success cutting back in distance following a fifth-place effort in the Louisiana Derby (GII).
“All systems are a go for Saturday,” Calhoun said. “We think the Matt Winn will be a good next step for a summer campaign for Mr. Money. I’m not sure exactly how far he wants to run but I think the 1 1/16 miles will be fine.”
Mr. Money, who schooled in the paddock Thursday morning, drew post No. 6 in the field of seven with regular rider Gabriel Saez aboard.
“He’s just been so impressive all along,” Saez said. “His Pat Day Mile win was pretty incredible with that field. We still have so much confidence in his future.”
The Matt Winn, which goes as Race 5 Saturday with a post time of approximately 8:03 p.m. (all times Eastern), was named in honor of the famed Churchill Downs president that served as the driving force in the development of the Downs and his beloved Kentucky Derby.
The field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Limonite (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 7-2); Signalman (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 4-1); Nolo Contesto (Joel Rosario, John Sadler, 3-1); Knicks Go (Tyler Gaffalione, Ben Colebrook, 5-1); Proverb (Calvin Borel, Ron Moquett, 15-1); Mr. Money (Saez, Calhoun, 2-1); and Armistice Day (Corey Lanerie, Tommy Drury, 2-1).
WINTER SUNSET MADE 7-2 MORNING LINE FAVORITE IN REGRET – Coffeepot Stables and Phillips Racing Partners’ Winter Sunset was made the 7-2 morning line favorite against 10 rivals in Saturday’s $150,000 Regret (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Winter Sunset, a gray daughter of Tapit, recently finished third behind Concrete Rose and Newspaperofrecord in the Edgewood (GIII) on Kentucky Oaks Day. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Winter Sunset will be ridden by Channing Hill from the rail.
“The rail isn’t the worst place to be with her speed,” Hill said. “She’s so classy for a 3-year-old. She ran a good race (in the Edgewood). There were some very nice fillies in that race and we didn’t get away the best from the gate.”
The field for the Regret, which is carded as Race 9 at 10:19 p.m., from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Winter Sunset (Hill, Catalano, 7-2); Delta’s Kingdom (John Velazquez, Bill Mott, 8-1); Crafty’s Dream (Sonny Leon, Michael Evans II, 50-1); Varenka (Javier Castellano, Graham Motion, 4-1); Hard Legacy (Julien Leparoux, Norm Casse, 8-1); Hungry Kitten (Joel Rosario, Shug McGaughey, 12-1); Belle Laura (Tyler Gaffalione, Norm Casse, 8-1); Choate Bridge (Jose Ortiz, Brendan Walsh, 10-1); Fortunate Girl (Florent Geroux, Mark Casse, 12-1); Gamblin Train (Adam Beschizza, Buff Bradley, 10-1); and Princessa Carolina (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 4-1). All fillies will carry 118 pounds.
EASTER MAN TRIES FOR FOUR WINS IN A ROW AS 5-2 FAVORITE IN PRESIDENT OF THE UAE CUP – Betty and Joseph Gillis’ 14-time winner Easter Man is slated as the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of 10 purebred Arabians that were entered for Saturday’s $100,000 President of the UAE Cup Sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs (GI).
The President of the UAE Cup, which has been part of a world-wide series of Arabian races for 26 years, is carded as Race 10 at Churchill Downs with a post time of 10:48 p.m.
Easter Man, a 7-year-old son of Burning Sand has reeled off three races in a row, including a one-length score in the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Amethyst Jewel Stakes (GI) at Sam Houston in March.
Easter Man drew post No. 9 with East Coast-based rider Carol Cedeno scheduled to make the trip to Kentucky for the mount.
The complete field for the President of the UAE Cup (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Madjikman (Keibar Coa, Fenneka Bentley, 5-1); Bellfastt (Jack Gilligan, Bentley, 20-1); Uptown Cruisedirector (Jose Garcia, Lynn Ashby, 8-1); Mizzdora (Edgar Morales, Jeremias Castro, 15-1); Easter Man (Cedeno, Jerenesto Torrez, 5-2); RB Texas Hold Em (Gabriel Saez, Nicole Ruggeri, 6-1); Thess Is Awesome (Adam Beschizza, Ashby, 10-1); Paddys Day (Ricardo Santana Jr., Leonie Sessing, 8-1); Quick and Rich (Corey Lanerie, Ashby, 3-1); and Risky Red (Rayan Gazader, Sessing, 15-1).
DOWNS AFTER DARK THEME IS ‘THE BIG EASY’ – 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 night.
Churchill Downs will bring Bourbon Street to Louisville with the evening’s theme of “The Big Easy.” Guests are encouraged to wear New Orleans-inspired purple, green or gold.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will be the crown jewel of this year’s Spring Meet entertainment when they headline Saturday’s Downs After Dark with a performance on the Plaza Stage from 8:30-11:30 p.m. The New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band is a world famous music machine whose name is synonymous with genre-bending romps and high-octane performances. The band has taken the traditional foundation of brass band music and incorporated it into a blend of genres including Bebop Jazz, Funk, R&B and Soul to create a unique sound they describe as a “musical gumbo.”
Entertainment will also include a high-swinging, hard-blowing vintage jazz and pop performance by local four-beat band the West Market Stompers (6-8 p.m.), a Second Line Parade and Bourbon Street-themed cocktails and street performers.
General admission to Churchill Downs is $12 on Saturday with a first post of 6 p.m. and gates at 5 p.m. Box seats are $27 and reserved dining packages are $69. All ticket options can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
CHURCHILL DOWNS CHALLENGE HANDICAPPING CONTEST ON STEPHEN FOSTER NIGHT – Some of the nation’s elite horseplayers will descend upon Churchill Downs on Saturday night and attempt to secure seats at the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge as they pit their handicapping skills against the best Louisville has to offer.
The Churchill Downs Challenge Handicapping Contest 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 Stephen Foster 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 tournament will receive $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seats for the Nov. 1-2 event 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 Gary.Palmisano@KyDerby.com.
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 on Races 5-9 starting at 7:57 p.m., which encompasses the Matt Winn (Race 5), Wise Dan (Race 6), Fleur de Lis (Race 7), Stephen Foster (Race 8) and Regret (Race 9). There also will be an all-stakes Pick 4 on Races 6-9 starting at 8:30 p.m.
All told, there will be three Pick 5s (Races 1-5, Races 5-9 and Races 7-11) and three Pick 4s (Races 2-5, 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 and the $1 Super Hi 5 will be staged on the final race of the night.
MEET LEADERS – Corey Lanerie began the week with a three-win lead in the Churchill Downs jockey standings, 27-24, over Miguel Mena. Julien Leparoux was in third with 22 wins. … Steve Asmussen was on top of the trainer standings with 20 wins over Eddie Kenneally and Mike Maker’s 12 victories. … Maggi Moss held a 6-4 win lead over Ken and Sarah Ramsey and Whitham Thoroughbreds in the owner standings.
DOWN THE STRETCH – There is a $94,419 carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot that highlights the eight-race program for Twilight Thursday Presented by Blue Moon. The evening features $1 Blue Moon drafts, $1 domestic draft beer, food trucks, lawn games, one-on-one expert betting advice and live music on the Plaza Stage by Frankie Leo. First post is 5 p.m. … Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen began Thursday’s card needing four wins to become only the third trainer in Churchill Downs history to have 700 victories beneath the Twin Spires. … Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. was six wins away from 600 victories at Churchill Downs. … In honor of Flag Day on Friday, Churchill Downs is hosting a Military Appreciation Day. Active members and retired veterans will receive free general admission or a 25% discount on a Chef’s Table buffet and seat on Millionaires Row with a valid military I.D. … Churchill Downs is offering a special Father’s Day combo ticket offer for Sunday’s 10-race program. The Father’s Day combo includes a reserved box seat, official program, domestic beer or souvenir soda, and a hot dog for only $15. Visit https://www1.ticketmaster.com/event/16005572E3D31EA3?did=fathersday and select Father’s Day combo as a ticket type to purchase on Ticketmaster.com. Also available is the Stakes & Eggs Brunch in the Stakes Room for $57.