Gallant Stables’ 8-year-old Majestic Harbor, the 13-1 surprise runaway winner of the $400,000 Alysheba (Grade II) on Kentucky Oaks Day, readied for his engagement in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.40 on Friday morning at Churchill Downs – the fastest of 20 moves at the distance.
Churchill Downs clockers timed Majestic Harbor in splits of :12.20, :24.40 and :36.20 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven-eighths of a mile in 1:27.20. Trainer Paul McGee had regular rider Corey Lanerie in the saddle for the breeze.
“He worked really good and did it all on his own without much asking,” Lanerie said. “When I asked him to finish, he finished strong and was just cruising.”
The Kentucky-bred son of Rockport Harbor has won 10 races and $1,246,814 in 41 starts over the past six years. Majestic Harbor collected two of his four graded stakes wins during his 6-year-old campaign in California with trainer Sean McCarthy: the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup (GIII) and $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) in 2014.
He returned to McGee’s care in the early 2015 and signaled his return to top form this winter with a game head victory over Eagle in the $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) at Fair Grounds. Two races later, he beat that rival again, this time by 2 ½ lengths, in the Alysheba.
“He’s a classy horse, he’s a millionaire and he showed his class,” McGee said after the Alysheba. “He’s been a very sound horse all along, he really has.”
“I think he’s gotten even better than he’s ever been,” Lanerie said. “He sure seems that way. Right now, he’s a happy, happy horse.”
Weights for the June 18 Stephen Foster Handicap will be released Saturday.
The field for the 1 1/8-mile race is expected to be led by $2,682,950-earner Effinex, the four-time graded stakes winner from the Jimmy Jerkens barn in New York who won last fall’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) after finishing second to Horse of the Year and Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).
The Stephen Foster Handicap for 3-year-olds and up – part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Classic Division” in which the winner will earn a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 5 – is one of five stakes races on June 18, which is a “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and El Jimador” night racing event that starts at 6 p.m. The others are the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles; the $200,000 Wise Dan (GII) – formerly the Firecracker – for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf; the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; and the $100,000 Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
CASH CONTROL MADE 9-5 EARLY FAVE FOR SATURDAY’S OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP – Churchill Downs odds maker Mike Battaglia has tabbed Richard and Bertram Klein’s 5-year-old mare Cash Control as the 9-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 40th running of the $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares will precede a simulcast of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes and goes as the final race on an 11-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern). The Old Forester has a post time of 5:51 p.m. and the Belmont Stakes simulcast is scheduled for 6:37 p.m.
Cash Control (14-7-2-2—$284,700), the Brad Cox-trained winner of the $50,000 Tiffany Lass and $60,000 Daisy Devine at Fair Grounds this winter, was third beaten 4 ½ lengths by reigning Champion Female Turf Horse Tepin in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day.
The complete Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weight and morning line odds): Kiss Moon (Jesus Castanon, 115 pounds, 8-1); Flying Tipat (Brian Hernandez Jr., 115, 12-1); Sistas Stroll (Joe Rocco Jr., 114, 12-1); Cash Control (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118, 9-5); Mizz Money (Marlon St. Julien, 121, 3-1); Zipessa (Mitchell Murrill, 115, 6-1); Sweet Acclaim (IRE) (Robby Albarado, 115, 12-1); Josdesanimaux (Gary Stevens, 115, 8-1); Southern Gem (Channing Hill, 114, 15-1); and Personal Diary (Chris Landeros, 118, 15-1).
CHURCHILL DOWNS TO HONOR ALI WITH ICONIC IMAGE ON MASSIVE VIDEO BOARD OVERNIGHT – Churchill Downs will pay tribute to Louisville-born legend Muhammad Ali by displaying an iconic image of the boxing champion and humanitarian on the track’s massive video “Big Board” Thursday night into Friday morning.
The image of Ali on Churchill Downs’ main track was taken by sports photographer Curt Gunther in 1963, and surfaced earlier this week on various news and social media outlets.
Ali will be buried and memorialized in his hometown on Friday.
Friday’s 9 a.m. motorcade through the city to bury Ali at Cave Hill Cemetery is not expected to impact traffic flow into Churchill Downs, which has a 12:45 p.m. first post. A public memorial is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville. Churchill Downs will salute “The Greatest of All Time” by observing a moment of silence during its program.
When news broke of Ali’s death last Friday, Churchill Downs lit its signature Twin Spires red and black to honor Ali. The colors were chosen by family friend John Ramsey, who will be a pallbearer at Ali’s funeral, to recognize the Champ’s passion for the academic and athletic programs of the nearby University of Louisville.