We all chase those moments in life that provide a little something-something. Those that help solidify us in the minds of others, but most importantly, in our own eyes. Validation can be a very satisfying thing. For one Thoroughbred trainer, an aptly named runner provided a little of that thirst quenching elixir in the headliner at Churchill Downs on June 15.
The Stephen Foster has long been one of those races that draw top-flight competition. As a Breeders’ Cup “win and you’re in” race, it’s importance has ramped up in recent years. The 38th running in 2019 was absolutely no different as 12 runners lined up with graded stakes winners like Gift Box, Tenfold, Yoshida, Quip and Rated R Superstar among those shipping in for a run at the $600,000. Seeking the Soul, a graded stakes winner in his own right was not shipping in as his home base is Churchill. Trainer Dallas Stewart had sent his six-year old out three times in graded stakes company this year with a second (Pegasus) and a third (Alysheba) sandwiched around an eighth place (Dubai World Cup). Knowing his horse like the back of his hand, the veteran conditioner sent his charge to post with full confidence.
“This horse is very special to our entire barn and we saw all the signs he was ready coming in,” says Stewart. “He’s really blossoming as a six-year old and is as good as he’s ever been right now.”
When the gates opened Stewart’s confidence was rewarded. Seeking the Soul turned in a huge run and provided the masses with a glimpse of the greatness his conditioner had witnessed in the mornings leading up to the race. Breaking sharply under jockey John Velazquez, this son of Perfect Soul settled just off a leisurely pace. Strolling through an opening half mile in 49.43, the Soul was able to relax and get in a comfortable mid-pack stride.
“He was a little more aggressive than I wanted him to be ,” says Velazquez. “He’s never that close in the first part of the race. Once I got him back where I wanted him to be he got comfortable.”
Once the runners turned for home, Velazquez swung his mount into the clear and asked for more. Responding with a big kick down the lane, Seeking the Soul overcame the slow fractional times and simply powered past the front runners as he won the mile and an eighth venture by ¾ length.
“I wasn’t watching the split times I was just watching my horse,” says an ecstatic Stewart when asked about the slow pace. “Time only matters if you are in jail.”
The Breeders’ Cup win and you’re in portion of the first place prize is also a big ole drink of satisfaction for Stewart. Last year the Mississippi native wanted to run the Soul in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but was denied a spot as the race was oversubscribed. Settling for the Dirt Mile, the Soul ran second and his conditioner felt the extra quarter mile could have benefitted his runner. This year, Stewart and his Soul cannot be omitted.
“One thing is for sure, we definitely have a spot in the Classic,” says Stewart. “It’s a win and you’re in and we are very excited about that. This is as good as it gets.”
That drink of validation raised Seeking the Soul’s career earnings to a hefty $3,335,802. This was his third graded stakes win beneath the twin spires (2017 Clark, 2018 Ack Ack) and his seventh win in twenty seven career starts. His backers were rewarded with an $11.20 return on a $2 win wager after his Foster foray.