Stephen Foster (Grade 1) Preview

Hopportunity in Paddock at Santa Anita Park

Likely Winners

#5 Hoppertunity (KY) – The last time Hoppertunity came to Churchill Downs he was triumphant in the Clark Handicap last fall beating Protonicio and Constitution.  Both of those horses have come back to win major races, plus this year Hoppertunity has won a Grade 2 and was beaten only by super stars California Chrome and Shared Belief in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.  Luckily for him neither of those two horses are entered here!  He’s working lights out for this race, and if he fires well off this short layoff he’ll be awfully tough to beat.

#2 Lea (KY) – Speaking of working out well…Lea gave a “wow” type of workout on the Oklahoma Training track at Saratoga going 4 furlongs in :48 and earning a bullet as the fastest of 69 other runners on June 6th.  Usually workouts don’t sway me one way or another, but with him coming back from the Dubai World Cup I felt it was important.  He ran a very solid race in Dubai, and also a very solid race over a speed favoring track in the Donn Handicap.  He’s geared up and ready to go for this one, and should be in the mix until the very end.  The battle between him and Hoppertunity is a toss up.

#1 Commissioner (KY) – Oh how the so called “experts” love to hate on this horse!  For some reason they ignore the fact he nearly won the Belmont Stakes last year, and has two Grade 3 victories this year.  I picked him third however because I do believe he actually needs longer than the mile and one-eighth distance of todays race.  I actually like the rail draw for him though…break well and go right to the front and try to take them wire to wire will most likely be the plan.

Exotic Plays

#4 Noble Bird (KY) – Huge finish last time out in the Alysheba makes him interesting, but also might make him a tad bit over bet.  The competition is a little tougher today, but I still expect him to come with a run.  Do not believe he can win the whole thing, but is a nice horse to use underneath.

Party Crashers

#7 Cat Burglar (KY) – Has disappointed after a ton of hype going into his 2015 debut.  Much of the hype came from him outworking Bayern at Santa Anita, but now we’ve seen that Bayern has come back to be a major flop so far this year.  This will be his third race off the layoff, and he did improve last time so I’ll give him one last small chance before I throw him out completely.  Obviously Baffert still believes in him.

Throw Outs

#6 Majestic Harbor (KY) – Looking back…winning the Gold Cup last year might have been the worst thing to happen to him.  They’ve ran him in too tough of spots since, until they finally dropped to the allowance ranks and won two straight.  Now he’s back in a Grade 1…don’t like it.

#3 Paganol (KY) – Has two giant allowance wins, but that was when they left him loose on the lead.  He won’t get that kind of trip here, and this class jump is way to much for him.

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