The Triple Crown chase may be over, but there is plenty of horse racing excitement to come. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes receive a lot of notoriety, but the rest of the year holds plenty of top-notch Thoroughbred competition. In fact, things are going to get cranked up in a hurry as Churchill Downs will play host to a big day just one week after the Crown hopes were dashed again.
The $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap has long been regarded as one of the early summer signature events for older horses. Since it’s inception in 1982, this mile and an eighth race on dirt has served as a springboard for highly respected runners like Black Tie Affair (1991), Awesome Again (1998), Victory Gallop (1999), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008), Blame (2010), Ron the Greek (2012), and Fort Larned (2013). Now as a “win and you’re in” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the victor gets a fees paid berth in the year-end world Thoroughbred championships.
This edition of the Foster should be another exciting rendition. Reigning three-year old horse of the year Will Take Charge will hope to get himself back on track after a less than spectacular beginning to his four-year old campaign. After narrowly missing by a nose in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic, this big, strapping, D. Wayne Lukas trained colt defeated Game On Dude and a solid field in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in late November. That win solidified himself as the best three-year old and seemed to set him up for a big 2014. In tough every time out this year, Will Take Charge has finished second in both the Donn Handicap and Santa Anita Handicap, won the Oaklawn Handicap, and then finished a disappointing sixth in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day. Having used the second half of last season as a catapult to greatness, this son of Unbridled’s Song hopes to begin another charge towards the Cup now that June has arrived.
Joining Will Take Charge in the starting gates will be the winner of the Alysheba, Moonshine Mullin. Riding a four race winning streak and with Churchill favorite Calvin Borel in the irons, this 6-year old grandson of Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin will look to make it two in a row beneath the twin spires. The second and fourth place finishers in the Alysheba, Golden Ticket and Mylute will also start in the Foster. Graded stakes winning Departing, the Todd Pletcher trained Revolutionary and the always dangerous Prayer for Relief are also big-time runners that will be vying for a berth in the $5miilion Breeders’ Cup Classic on June 7.
As one of the Downs after Dark programs, first post is at 6pm eastern and will also feature the historic Fleur De Lis for fillies and mares and the Matt Winn Stakes for three-year old males. So saddle up, the excitement is not over but rather just beginning!