Horse Racing: 2014 Stephen Foster Handicap Preview; ‘Chrome Goes Home

If you are suffering from an emotional letdown from California Chrome’s defeat in the Belmont Stakes, like I am a little, don’t… because the sport of Horse Racing keeps the ball rolling this weekend with several key races topped off by the 2014 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The Grade:1, nine furlong race for a half million bucks for four years olds and up drew a strong field of nine including Will Take Charge, Revolutionary and Departing.

Some of the other key races around the country this weekend include the Fleur de Lis also at Churchill Downs. This nine furlong race for three year old and up fillies and mares for $200,000 drew a field of just six with Grade:2 Ruffian Handicap (and multiple stakes winner) Fiftyshadesofhay spearheading the field.

Her main competitors appear to be Flashy American and On Fire Baby, whom of both appear to be rounding back into top form.

Flashy American had a very strong 2013 summer campaign before her form went a little south in the fall. She was given the winter off and, after a disappointing return to the races in 2014, she won the Grade:3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne her last time out.

On Fire Baby had a bumpy 2013 while making just four starts and winning one but her last two races were very good. The filly by the fleet Smoke Glacken was a close second to Close Hatches (who bumped off Beholder and Princess of Sylmar this past week) in the Apple Blossom and then won a Grade: 1 in her last race over this very track.

While on the subject of action at Churchill Downs, the race right before the Fleur de Lis is the Matt Winn Stakes, a mile and a sixteenth race for three year olds for $100,000. This race marks the return of former Kentucky Derby hopeful Tapiture.

Tapiture, who even though finished off-the-board in the Kentucky Derby, likes the Churchill surface as he closed out the 2013 season with a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes back in November.

Tapiture’s main foes appear to be 2013 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner Rise Up, who blew away seven others while recording a 10 3/4-length romp in the Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in his last start, and Conquest Titan who in no way, shape or form should be 10-1 on the morning line. Yet another one time Kentucky Derby candidate, this colt by Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone will be making his first start since the April 12 Arkansas Derby and has been burning up the racetrack in the morning recently

Out at Santa Anita on Saturday are a pair of major stakes races in the Shoemaker (turf) Mile for three year olds and up and the Vanity Handicap for three year olds and up fillies and mares going a mile and an eighth. Both races are Grade: 1’s.

The Shoemaker Mile drew a field of seven for the $400,000 purse. Among the contenders are the ultra consistent Jack Milton, who shows nine on the board finishes out of 10 career races including a win at Belmont in the Poker Handicap in his last start, Obviously, who walloped his foes in the one mile American Stakes (over this course) in his last race. This speedster led every step of the way in that race while stopping the clock in a scorching 1:33.1 and Winning Prize, who won five of his last eight races and eight of 13 overall in his career

The Vanity Handicap drew a field of eight led by multiple graded stakes winner Grace Hall, who will be making just her second start in 14 months.

The good looking mare by-old Empire Makercomes off a late running second place finish to the aforementioned Fiftyshadesofhay in the Ruffian Stakes May 11 at Belmont Park. I thought she ran great for her first race in a year while coming back from a coffin bone injury and figures to appreciate the stretch out in distance on Saturday.

Other contenders in the Vanity, which is run at nine furlongs and for $300,000, include Let Faith Arise, who is having a strong 2014 and Yahilwa, who has run back to back bang up races in her last two.

Belmont Park will be hosting a pair of two year old races this weekend in the Astoria Stakes for two year old fillies on Saturday and the Tremont for two year old colts on Sunday.

The Astoria, which is run at five and a half furlongs for $100,000, drew a field of six led by Maryland invader Latris, who smoked a field of maidens in her debut at Pimlico (she won by 3 ¾’s lengths but it was another 7 ½ lengths back to the third place finisher) and Lindy, who absolutely cruised (by 4 ½ lengths) in her debut at Presque Isle Downs.

One other horse I found interesting while looking over the Astoria field was Fashion Alert. This filly (by Old Fashioned) will not only be making her stakes debut, but will be making her racing debut as well in this race. That’s right, this Todd Pletcher trained filly will be running for the first time in a $100,000 stakes race….talk about being aggressive.

The bay filly shows six works including five furlongs in :59.3 on June 1.

What I found even more amazing is she is listed as the 2/1 second choice on the morning line….a filly who has never started before is listed as the 2/1 second choice in a $100,000 stakes race?? I wonder what Pletcher and Belmont odds maker Eric Donovan know that I don’t.

The Tremont field, which is also run at five and a half furlongs and for $100,000, had not been draw yet at the time of this writing.


June 14, 2014

Churchill Downs

Race: 8

Stephen Foster Handicap

Purse: $500,000

Distance: One and One Eighth Miles

For Three Year Olds and Upward.

Post-time: 9:39pm EST


P# PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Revolutionary 4/C L M E Smith 118 T A Pletcher 2/1
2 2 Jaguar Paw 7/H L S Bridgmohan 114 S S Lyster 30/1
3 3 Moonshine Mullin 6/H L C H Borel 118 R L Morse 10/1
4 4 Will Take Charge 4/C L G L Stevens 123 D W Lukas 5/2
5 5 Mylute 4/C L J Graham 115 T M Amoss 12/1
6 6 Departing 4/G L R Albarado 118 A M Stall, Jr. 9/2
7 7 Golden Ticket 5/H L J R Leparoux 117 K G McPeek 8/1
8 8 Long River 4/C L I Ortiz, Jr. 115 K P McLaughlin 15/1
9 9 Prayer for Relief 6/H L J R Velazquez 117 D L Romans 8/1




1) Will Take Charge– ran his first bad race in a little over a year when finishing a disappointing sixth, beaten 10 ¾ lengths in the Alysheba Stakes at the 3/5 favorite.

The big, well bred colt (Unbridled’s Song- Take Charge Lady by Dehere) ran either first or second in eight consecutive races dating back to last summer and I’m just going to draw a line thru the Alysheba as is trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

“I think that was an out-of-the-blue deal,” Lukas said. “I’m not a bit concerned; he’s trained so superbly since then (May 29- 6F- 1:12.1 and June 6- 5F- 1:00.1). It will be a good race. It’s not an easy spot.”

“He came to me a little bit flat in the paddock that day (in the Alysheba). I think we’ll just forget it happened and go on to the next one” Lukas added.

“I think we’re sitting right on a big one. He’s had a really good month,” Lukas continued “We’re hopeful that he’ll get back to top form, and I think he will. 

There should be enough early speed to set up this colt’s late run and I expect a bounce back effort come Saturday night.



2) Revolutionary– appears to be Will Take Charge’s main problem based off his last race and the race before.

Two races ago, the April 12 Oaklawn Handicap, this colt who is also well bred (War Pass-Runup the Colors by A.P Indy) came roaring off the turn and had dead aim on Will Take Charge in the stretch, however, Will Take Charge came out in mid-stretch and in turn floated this colt wide as well. After a long stewards’ inquiry the order of finish was upheld.

This horses’ last race (May 16 Pimlico Special) was nothing short of astonishing.

In that race, Revolutionary was bumped hard and pinched back at the break; he quickly found himself an astounding 30 lengths behind at first call.

From there, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith calmly weaved his way around horses and uncorked a furious stretch run to get up to win by a neck over Prayer for Relief. (Who is entered back in this race).

“I think he’s shown that when he’s on his A game — which he indicates to us he is — he’s capable of running with anyone,” trainer Todd Pletcher said afterwards.

He also shows a steady stream of :48 half mile works for this and could very well wind up in the winners circle should Will Take Charge stub his toe once again.


3) Departing– is a gorgeous animal with a beautiful stride and has now won seven of 10 career stakes including the Illinois, West Virginia and Super Derbies last year.

This gelding by War Front will be making just his second start since Sept 29 (He won a high priced optional claimer in preparation for this on April 30) and he’s fired two enormous works in between (June 1- 5F- :58.2 and May 25- 6F 1:12.4).

I expect a good year from this guy but with just one race since September, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be at the top of his game (and he’ll have to be in order to beat the top two) at this point.


Honorable Mentions:

Moonshine Mullin is clearly in career best form. This speedster by Albert the Great has ripped off four straight wire to wire scores including his last where he defeated Will Take Charge in the aforementioned Alysheba Stakes. He’ll be winging it on the front end again on Saturday and may prove difficult to run down late. Mylute ran very well before and during the Triple Crown races last year before throwing in a complete clunker in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga last summer. Trainer Thomas Amoss then gave this colt the rest of the year off and has been signaling a return to form of late. “When you look back at Mylute’s Triple Crown campaign last year, they were very competitive races on his part,” said Amoss. “After the second leg, it was apparent to us that he needed some time instead of running in the third leg. But he’s come back a stronger and better horse, as any 4-year-old typically does. And he’s going to be running against the top of his class Saturday night.”



2014 Record: 12-31 = 39% 

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Little Bets N’ Pieces:


**** 2014 Belmont Stakes runner up Commissioner came out of the race with a small chip in his front left ankle and will undergo surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington KY., according to a press release this past Wednesday.

The 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy is scheduled for a small surgical procedure to have the chip removed by noted veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage.

“Commissioner was sent back to WinStar Farm on Sunday (June 8) for a brief freshening before targeting the major late-summer 3-year-old races. The first day back he looked good, but on the second day he had some filling in his left ankle,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar’s president. “We took X-rays and discovered he had a small lateral P1 chip that Dr. Bramlage said would be very easy to take out. He’ll obviously get the proper recovery time, but there’s a good chance Commissioner will be able to return by the fall.”

“It’s always disappointing when you have a setback with such a talented and improving colt like Commissioner, especially with races like the Haskell and Travers around the corner,” Walden added. “I believe he was set to have a big summer. But the good news is the chip is in a favorable spot, and we expect him to be back to 100% soon. We’ve always been very high on Commissioner, and he’s only going to continue to get better and better.”



**** California Chrome arrived back home to Art Sherman’s barn at Los Alamitos Race Course and, aside from a foot injury and leg scrape, appears to be doing fine.

Since arriving back there on Sunday night, California Chrome has been taking it easy (walking 30 minutes a day) while receiving treatment for a torn out quarter to his right front foot which he received after bumping with long-shot Matterhorn shortly out of the gate.

“We’ll doctor the foot for the next 10 days or so, then we’ll send him out for six weeks,” Sherman said this past Wednesday. The big chestnut will then be sent to John Harris’ Harris’ River Ranch in Central California, where the colt was foaled, the trainer said.

“It’s really more preventative doctoring; the area is a little raw. He was bleeding pretty good after the race,” Sherman said.

California Chrome also received a nick to the hide of his left foot near a tendon when he apparently clipped himself during the bump but Sherman said the injury was “superficial”.

“That was the one that really scared me,” he said. “That would have been a major blow had he cut a tendon. But it’ll heal up all right.”

California Chrome is expected to be brought back for racing this fall, with the major goal being the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park Nov. 1. He’ll likely have one prep race against older horses before then and although his owners and breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, have not made an official announcement yet, California Chrome also is expected to race as a 4-year-old.

“Physically, he looks great,” Sherman said. “He never lost a pound through the whole thing (Triple Crown). He’s been eating everything we give him. He’s a remarkable horse; he bounces back quick.”

When asked about California Chrome’s loss in the Belmont, Sherman said “It’s not the end of the world.”

“He probably wasn’t quite up to the trip, the mile-and-a-half,” Sherman said. “(The injury) had to have stung him some. I’m not an excuse maker but that last 70 yards, he kind of threw his head up there and that tells me he wasn’t completely comfortable.”


**** 2014 Risen Star Stakes winner Intense Holiday, who underwent surgery recently for a condylar fracture to his right foreleg, was euthanized yesterday (Thursday) due to laminitis.

Owner Starlight Racing Stable announced reported that Intense Holiday developed laminitis in both front legs just days after undergoing surgery May 27 at the Hogan Equine Veterinary Clinic in New Jersey.

The original injury occurred May 25 when Intense Holiday was working in company with stablemate Commissioner at Belmont Park, where he was preparing for a start in the Belmont Stakes.

“To lose such a strong and vibrant athlete like Intense Holiday just underscores the insidious, nondiscriminatory nature of acute laminitis,” veterinarian Dr. Patty Hogan said. “No horse is immune to this disease, and it can strike at any time and with little warning. Intense Holiday was an incredibly stoic patient and his toughness humbled those of us caring for him.

“To this day, laminitis in the horse remains such a poorly understood disease process and our treatment options are so limited. I regret that we could not prevent the progression of the disease in this wonderful colt. It is a tragedy to lose him.”

“It’s a tough day for me, our partners and our team,” stated Jack Wolf, Starlight Racing co-managing partner. “This horse was a fighter and he fought for his life in the same way he battled on the track—with tenacity. It’s a terrible loss for all of us.”