Maxfield Leads Stephen Foster Stakes for Free Berth into Longines Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs; Fillies and Mares Square Off in Fleur de Lis for Automatic Berth into Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (June 25, 2021) — Led by Godolphin’s 4-year-old Maxfield, the first automatic berth in the U.S. for this year’s $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) will be on the line this Saturday, June 26, in the $600,000 Stephen Foster Stakes (G2), the centerpiece of an outstanding card of racing on closing day at Churchill Downs. Complementing the Stephen Foster will be the $300,000 Fleur de Lis (G2) — led by two-time Grade 1 winner Letruska — which will award the winner a free berth into the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Both the Stephen Foster and the Fleur de Lis are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, which is an international series of 84 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California on Nov. 5-6.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winners of the Stephen Foster and the Fleur de Lis to start in their respective World Championships races. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a travel allowance of $10,000 for all starters based outside of California to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 25 to receive the rewards.
The Fleur de Lis (2:45 p.m. ET post time) and the Stephen Foster (5:59 p.m. ET) will be televised live on FS2 as a part of “America’s Day at the Races” coverage.
The afternoon action also will be enhanced by the debut of “Breeders' Cup LIVE! Road to the Longines Classic" show, focusing on the Stephen Foster. Breeders’ Cup LIVE! will be hosted by ABR's Dan Tordjman along with Matt Bernier, Ren Carothers, Aly Vance, and Bram Weinstein; and will have an on-site appearance from Churchill Downs handicapper Scott Shapiro. Breeders’ Cup LIVE! will stream on ABR and Breeders’ Cup's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET.
Leading the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster, Maxfield, a bay son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense, has won six of seven races, including this year’s Mineshaft Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 13 and the Alysheba Stakes (G2) presented by Sentient Jet at Churchill on April 30. Trained by Brendan Walsh and ridden from post eight by Jose Ortiz, Maxfield’s only defeat came when finishing third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on March 6.
Among the eight challengers to Maxfield is Tom Durant’s seven-time winner Silver Dust, trained by Bret Calhoun. A gray/roan son of Tapit, the 7-year-old Silver Dust, third in last year’s Stephen Foster, captured the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland on April 10. Adam Beschizza will ride Silver Dust, breaking from post five.
The 5-year-old Virginia-bred Chess Chief, trained by Dallas Stewart, won the New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds in March, and then finished third in the Alysheba Stakes. Owned by the Estate of James Coleman Jr., Chess Chief will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post one. The entries for the Stephen Foster can be found here.
Over the years, Stephen Foster Stakes winners have had an excellent success rate in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. Black Tie Affair (1991), Awesome Again (1998), St. Liam (2005), Blame (2010) and Gun Runner (2017) all won the Stephen Foster and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year, with Blame and Gun Runner earning “Win and You’re In” berths. Breeders’ Cup Classic winners Curlin (2007) and Fort Larned (2012) won the Stephen Foster the following year.
The Stephen Foster is the second of nine Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races in this year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Division. Cafe Pharoah, a 4-year-old son of 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah, became the first horse to qualify for the 2021 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic by winning the February Stakes (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 21.
The 2021 list of Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Division “Win and You’re In” races is below:
St. George Stables’ Letruska looms large over five rivals in the Fleur de Lis, run at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares, 4-years-old and up. Trained by Fausto Gutierrez and ridden from post six by Jose Ortiz, Letruska, has won three of four starts this year. A 5-year-old bay daughter of Super Saver, Letruska defeated reigning older dirt female champion Monomoy Girl in the Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn Park on April 17, and followed up that victory by taking the “Win and You’re In” Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5 by 2 ¾ lengths. She opened her season on Jan. 31 winning the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) at Sam Houston Race Park, and then finished second to Shedaresthedevil in the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.
Walking Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s 4-year-old Envoutante, a five-time winner, has won three of four starts at Churchill, with her most recent score under the Twin Spires coming in the Shawnee Stakes, which she won by 4 ¼ lengths on May 29. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Envoutante, a dark bay daughter of Uncle Mo, finished second by 1 length to Shedaresthedevil in Churchill’s La Troienne (G1) on April 30. Envoutante will be ridden from post four by Brian Hernandez Jr.
Robert and Lawana Low’s 4-year-old Spice Is Nice, trained by Todd Pletcher, is two for two this year. After winning a 1 1/16-mile optional allowance claiming race on April 9 at Keeneland, the chestnut daughter of Curlin won the Allaire DuPont Match Series Stakes (G3) at Pimlico on May 14. John Velazquez has the mount from post five.
Alpha Delta Stables’ 5-year-old Point of Honor, trained by Shug McGaughey and ridden from post one by Javier Castellano, won the 2019 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2), and will be making her first start since finishing sixth in last November’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland. The entries for the Fleur de Lis can be found here.
Fleur de Lis winners Escena (1998), Banshee Breeze (1999), Royal Delta (2012), and Forever Unbridled (2017) also won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff in the same year, with Royal Delta and Forever Unbridled earning “Win and You’re In” berths. Breeders’ Cup Distaff winners Spain (2000) and Blue Prize (ARG) (2019) also were Fleur de Lis winners.
In addition to Lestruska, Blue Stripe (ARG), who won the Gran Premio Criadores (G1) on May 1 at Palermo Racecourse in Argentina, also has a “Win and You’re In” berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
The 2021 list of Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff Division “Win and You’re In” races is below:
ABOUT BREEDERS’ CUP
The Breeders’ Cup administers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred horse racing’s year-end Championships, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying series, which provides automatic starting positions into the Championships races. The Breeders’ Cup is also a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, an organization composed of industry leaders committed to advancing safety measures in Thoroughbred racing and improving the well-being of equine and human athletes.
The 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 14 Championship races, is scheduled to be held on November 5-6 at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California. The event will be televised live by the NBC Sports Group. Breeders’ Cup press releases appear on the Breeders’ Cup website, breederscup.com. You can also follow the Breeders’ Cup on social media.
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