An action-packed weekend of stakes racing is upon us, with Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky being the focal point.
There, some of the best older horses in the country will face off in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes, which is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Along with the Stephen Foster, the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis and the Kelly’s Landing will be other stakes events from Churchill Downs highlighted on NBC and Peacock starting at 4 PM ET on Saturday.
Below you will find selections from these three stakes, as well as the two graded stakes races taking place at Gulfstream Park: the Grade 3 Smile Sprint and the Grade 2 Princess Rooney, which is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
After twenty-three weeks, here is the results tally (records reflective of $2 WIN / $2 WPS):
WIN: 10-68 (14.7%, -$72.80)
WPS: 37-68 (54.4%, -$131.50)
3:44 ET – GULFSTREAM R7 – G3 SMILE SPRINT – 6 FURLONGS – DIRT
Drain the Clock may be the most accomplished horse in the field, but WILLY BOI (6) is in raging form at the moment and must be respected. Following a smashing seasonal debut at Tampa Bay Downs on April 8, the four-year-old Florida-bred gelding came right back to decimate a field of state-bred runners in the Big Drama Stakes at Gulfstream, drawing off to win by more than four lengths. Willy Boi’s versatility will allow jockey Chantal Sutherland the ability to play the break; if nobody goes, she can be aggressive, and if others are intent on the lead, she can just as easily sit and pounce.
THE PLAY: 6) WILLY BOI to win at odds of 2/1 or greater
4:35 ET – CHURCHILL DOWNS R8 – G2 FLEUR DE LIS – 1 1/8 MILES – DIRT
A competitive field of five fillies and mares sees a rematch between Pauline’s Pearl and Shedaresthedevil, the 1-2 finishers of May’s G1 La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. While they both deserve consideration and represent likely winners, I’m going to gamble that SUPER QUICK (1) can replicate the performance she delivered in last month’s DuPont Distaff at Pimlico and spring a mild upset. Trained by Norm Casse, the four-year-old daughter of Super Saver ran a hole in the wind, streaking away to win by more than fourteen-lengths and earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107 in the process. The fig is an anomaly, as she’s never earned anything higher than an 89 otherwise, but the fact remains: no other horse in this race is remotely capable of earning a figure that high. Super Quick could regress and still be fast enough to win this race – but she’ll need to earn it, likely taking pace pressure from Shedaresthedevil throughout.
THE PLAY: 1) SUPER QUICK to win at odds of 2/1 or greater
5:16 ET – CHURCHILL DOWNS R9 – THE KELLY’S LANDING – 6 1/2 FURLONGS – DIRT
In truth, this is Aloha West’s race to lose, but BANGO (5) deserves consideration based on his career record at Churchill Downs and his victory in last month’s Aristides. The Gregory Foley trainee closed into slow fractions beneath the twin spires on June 4, rallying to an emphatic two-and-a-half-length victory and earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure in the process (98). The five-year-old runner has an affinity for the Churchill Downs racing surface, owning a record of seven wins, one second, and two thirds from thirteen lifetime starts in Louisville. It’ll take his best to defeat the defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner in Aloha West, but Bango may be up for the challenge.
THE PLAY: 5) BANGO to win at odds of 7/2 or greater
5:20 ET – GULFSTREAM R10 – G2 PRINCESS ROONEY – 7 FURLONGS – DIRT
Not only did Ce Ce win this race last year, but she then went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar, capping off the best season of her career. She’s undoubtedly the horse to beat in this year’s Princess Rooney, but there’s no pace whatsoever entered, potentially compromising her chances. If anyone is going to take advantage, it could be the lone three-year-old in the field, SPIRIT WIND (1). Trained by Ralph Nicks, the daughter of Bahamian Squall has been spectacular in all three of her races this season, with her most recent score over elders in the Musical Romance being her best yet. If Spirit Wind is aggressively ridden from the rail by her rider, she should have every chance to spring the upset if she’s good enough.
THE PLAY: 1) SPIRIT WIND to win at odds of 6/1 or greater
5:47 ET – CHURCHILL DOWNS R10 – G2 STEPHEN FOSTER – 1 1/8 MILES – DIRT
All things considered, AMERICANREVOLUTION (2) ran well enough in last month’s Blame Stakes to think he’s primed and ready to take a significant step forward at Churchill Downs on Saturday, representing one of the likelier winners in this year’s Stephen Foster. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the four-year-old son of Constitution was intended to make his seasonal debut in a New York-bred stakes event, but unfortunately that race didn’t fill. Needing to call an audible, Pletcher chose to send Americanrevolution to Churchill Downs going 1 1/8 miles off an extended break, a task that proved to be too much to handle. After being closer to the pace than he’s been in the past, the colt flattened out late, fading to finish fourth. Americanrevolution gave off the impression that he was a “short horse” in need of fitness, and his effort should be interpreted as a positive entering Saturday’s Foster. Look for Luis Saez to attempt to establish some sort of forward position on his mount entering the first turn, figuring prominently throughout.
THE PLAY: 2) AMERICANREVOLUTION to win at odds of 5/2 or greater