A competitive field of 12 horses will run in this year’s edition of the $600,000 dollar Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Saturday night. The race is named in honor of American composer Stephen Foster, known as the Father Of American Music. He wrote over two hundred songs, including “Old Folks at Home”, “Camptown Races”, and “My Old Kentucky Home”.
It is the first Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifying event for the annual November thoroughbred summit. The Winner of the Stephen Foster Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $6 million dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) tentatively scheduled this autumn at Santa Anita Park.
Here is a look at the full field for Saturday nights race:
#1 THIRSTFORLIFE (ML 15-1) After two sub-par performances to start his season, it looked like his best days might have been behind him, but he came back with a big effort last time out to win an allowance event over this track on Kentucky Derby Day. That earned him a shot against Stakes company here, where he’ll face a deep and talented group. This inside rail draw most likely means that he’ll try to go for the lead right out of the gate.
#2 RATED R SUPERSTAR (ML 20-1) This horse has always been a bit inconsistent, but on his best days, he can compete with top-class company. Two races back he proved that, Winning the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park over solid rivals. The horse is now $15,000 away from $800,000 in career earnings.
#3 RUNAWAY GHOST (ML 20-1) The beast of Sunland Park takes his show on the road. As he will try to to Win away from his home track for the first time since November 11, 2017. He has Won 5 of 6 Sunland Park starts during his career, including last year’s Sunland Derby (G3) and three Stakes Races this season. He finished last of 12 in the Commonwealth Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, in his only trip away from Sunland Park this year.
#4 SEEKING THE SOUL (ML 4-1) He is no stranger to the big stage and has done some of his best running at Churchill Downs. Two years ago, he Won the Clark Handicap (G1), then took home the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) last year. He kicked off his 2019 by finishing 2nd in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Since then, he has finished eighth in the Dubai World Cup (G1) and third in the Alysheba Stakes (G2).
#5 ALKHAATAM (ML 30-1) After two blowout Victories to kick off his season, he’ll try Stakes company once again. He started his year with a dominating Maiden score at Oaklawn Park before shipping to Churchill Downs where he once again picked up a commanding Win, this time in an allowance race. He will have to stretch out beyond a mile here for the first time since finishing 4th in the Remsen Stakes (G2) as a 2-year-old.
#6 GIFT BOX (ML 3-1) For the majority of 2019, this colt has been ranked #1 in the older male division. He earned that when Winning the Santa Anita Handicap over McKINZIE in a classic stretch duel. However, he did suffer a defeat last time out to VINO ROSSO in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by 3/4 of a length. He would become horse racing’s newest million dollar earner with a solid effort here.
#7 TENFOLD (ML 12-1) Trainer Steve Asmussen has always been very high on this colt who seems to be improving with each start this year. Last time out, he picked up a big Win in the Pimlico Special (G3), and he bounced out of that well by posting a couple of big-time workouts. As a son of CURLIN, we expect this horse to continue to get better with age.
#8 KING ZACHARY (ML 12-1) He Won here last year in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3). He is looking to pick up his first Win since then in this tough spot. Another son of CURLIN, he has only raced once this year, finishing 3rd in a tough Allowance event on Kentucky Derby Day behind fellow competitor THIRSTFORLIFE. As was mentioned previously, CURLIN colts get better with age. We shall see.
#9 TOM’S D’ETAT (ML 5-1) Amazingly, this horse is still running very well at the age of six. He entered the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on a 4-race Winning streak before running a disappointing 9th in that spot. He shook off that poor performance, and last time out, finished a much better 2nd in the Alysheba Stakes. Based on that performance there is hope for a solid outing here.
#10 QUIP (ML 10-1) This lightly-raced colt disappeared after finishing 8th in last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1). He returned February in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3), finishing 3rd in what seemed to be a prep for his next start, which came in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). That race turned out much better as he Won by a neck over a very sloppy track. That Victory earned him a shot here.
#11 EXULTING (ML 20-1) His Win in the inaugural Oaklawn Mile Stakes sets him up for a try against tougher company in this spot. That was the second Stakes Victory of his career… but he has never Won – nor started in – a Graded event.
#12 YOSHIDA (ML 7-2) It is rare to see a horse that can Win at the highest level on both turf and dirt. That is exactly what this guy did last year in the Turf Classic Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs and the Woodword Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. His 2019 has not been as successful, with just two 6th place finishes against some of the best horses in the world. He’ll stick to the dirt here after only losing the Dubai World Cup (G1) by 5 lengths last time out.
The Stephen Foster Stakes is race eight on a card of nine. It has a scheduled Post-Time of 9:39 p.m. Eastern Time, and will be broadcast live by NBCSN. It headlines a card filled with five Stakes Races at Churchill Downs, all of which will be contested under the lights.
If you’re looking for live-long-shots (and why wouldn’t you be?) the Daily Racing Blog is going with #5 ALKHAATAM and #7 TENFOLD. We could also see #9 TOM’S D’ETAT making a bid for the Win.
As always, best of luck no matter how you play it.