Full Field Ready for Stephen Foster Showdown
Courtesy of Aaron Halterman of the Racing Dudes
An eye-catching 12 horses will run in this year’s version of the $600,000 Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, the first Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for the Classic.
For the first half of the season, the top older horse in the country going two turns has been the John Sadler-trained Gift Box. He won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) to kick off his season, but last time out, he settled for second behind Vino Rosso in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1). He’ll be challenged by fellow G1 winner Yoshida, who finished fourth last year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A graded stakes winner on both turf and dirt, Yoshida finished off the board in both starts this year, in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1) and the Dubai World Cup (G1).
The winner of the Stephen Foster Sakes will receive an automatic position in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Don’t forget to tune in to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In presented by America’s Best Racing on Saturday night! Coverage starts at 8:30pm (ET) on NBCSN where you’ll catch the LIVE running of the Fleur de Lis (Longines Distaff) and Stephen Foster (Classic)!
Here is a look at the full field:
#1 Thirstforlife – After two sub-par performances to start his season, it looked like his best days might have been behind him, but he came back with a big effort last time out to win an allowance event over this track on Kentucky Derby Day. That earned him a shot against stakes company here, where he’ll face a deep and talented group. This inside rail draw most likely means that he’ll try to go for the lead right out of the gate.
#2 Rated R Superstar – This horse has always been a bit inconsistent, but on his best days, he can compete with top-class company. Two races back, he proved that when winning the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park over solid company. The horse is now $15,000 away from $800,000 in career earnings.
#3 Runaway Ghost – The beast of Sunland Park takes his show on the road while trying to win away from his home track for the first time since November 11, 2017. He has won 5 of 6 Sunland Park starts during his career, including last year’s Sunland Derby (G3) and three stakes this season. His lone 2019 trip away from Sunland Park did not go well; he finished last of 12 in the Commonwealth Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
#4 Seeking the Soul – He is no stranger to the big stage and has done some of his best running at Churchill Downs. Two years ago, he won the Clark Handicap (G1), then took home the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) last year. He kicked off his 2019 by finishing second in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Since then, he finished eighth in the Dubai World Cup (G1) and third in the Alysheba Stakes (G2).
#5 Alkhaatam – After two blowout victories to kick off his season, he will try stakes company once again. His year started with a dominating maiden score at Oaklawn Park before shipping to Churchill Downs and once again picking up a commanding a win, this time in an allowance race. Here, he’ll have to stretch out beyond a mile for the first time since finishing fourth in the Remsen Stakes (G2) as a 2-year-old.
#6 Gift Box – For the majority of 2019, this Sadler trained colt has been ranked #1 in the older male division. He earned that when winning the Santa Anita Handicap over McKinzie in a classic stretch duel. However, he did suffer a defeat last time out to Vino Rosso in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by 3/4 of a length. He is likely to become horse racing’s newest millionaire with a solid effort here, and a win could put him back on top of the older male handicap division.
#7 Tenfold – Trainer Steve Asmussen has always been very high on this colt who seems to be improving with each start this year. Last time out, he picked up a big win in the Pimlico Special (G3), and he bounced out of that well by posting a couple of big-time workouts. Being a son of Curlin, expect this horse to continue to get better with age.
#8 King Zachary – Last year’s winner of the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) here will look to pick up his first win since then in this tough spot. This Curlin son has only raced once this year, finishing third in a tough allowance event on Kentucky Derby Day behind follow competitor Thirstforlife. As was mentioned with Tenfold, though, these Curlin colts get better with age, which makes King Zachary an interesting longshot.
#9 Tom’s d’Etat – This horse is still running very well at the age of 6. He entered the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on a 4-race winning streak before running a disappointing ninth in that spot. He shook off that poor performance last time out, though, finishing an improved second in the Alysheba. That performance should give his connections hope for a solid performance here.
#10 Quip – This lightly-raced colt disappeared after an eighth-place finish in last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1) last year. He returned February in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3), finishing third in what seemed to be a prep for his next start, which came in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). That race turned out much better as he gutted out a neck victory over a very sloppy track. The win earned him a shot here.
#11 Exulting – A win in the inaugural Oaklawn Mile Stakes sets him up for a try against tougher company in this spot. That was the second stakes victory of his career, though he has never won – or started in – a graded event.
#12 Yoshida – It is rare to see a horse that can win at the highest level on both turf and dirt. That is exactly what Yoshida did last year in the Turf Classic Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs and the Woodword Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. His 2019 has not been as successful, with just two sixth-place finishes against some of the best horses in the world. He’ll stick to the dirt after only losing the Dubai World Cup (G1) by 5 lengths last time out.
The Stephen Foster Stakes headlines a card filled with five stakes races at Churchill Downs, all of which will be contested under the lights, with a special late post time on Saturday. The card will also feature the Fleur De Lis Handicap (G2), which serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Distaff. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on June 29 at Gulfstream Park with the running of the Princess Rooney Handicap. That race will be a “Win and You’re In” event for the Filly and Mare Sprint.
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to racingdudes.com.
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