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Aaron previews the 2023 Stephen Foster Stakes (G1) from Ellis Park, then gives his top picks & long shots from this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Rattle N Roll brings a 3-race win streak up against fellow Kenny McPeek trainee Smile Happy, but could an outsider post an upset? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Lucky Seven Stable’s multiple graded stakes winning colt Smile Happy headlines an accomplished field of eight older horses that entered Saturday’s 42nd running of the Grade I, $1 million Stephen Foster at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.
The Stephen Foster is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). The winner of the Stephen Foster will receive an automatic entry to the 2023 running of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and have their pre-entry and entry fees waved along with a travel stipend if they are traveling outside the state of California. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held at Santa Anita on Nov. 3-4.
Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Stephen Foster will go as Race 10 of 11 at 4:26 p.m. (all times Central). First post is 11:45 a.m. The Stephen Foster is the centerpiece of a six pack of stakes events Saturday at Ellis Park. The other featured races on the program are the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), the $400,000 Wise Dan (GII), the $225,000 American Derby (Listed), the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed) and the $225,000 Tepin.
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Smile Happy won his second-career Grade II contest on Kentucky Oaks Day when he powered home to a two-length score in the $600,000 Alysheba (GII). As a 2-year-old, Smile Happy was victorious in the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) before he tested the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The son of Runhappy qualified for Kentucky Derby 148 but finished eighth behind Rich Strike. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Smile Happy’s 4-year-old resume includes an allowance victory and a third-place finish in the Oaklawn Mile (GIII). Jockey Corey Lanerie will have the mount aboard Smile Happy in the Stephen Foster and the duo will break from post No. 5.
Another top entrant in the Stephen Foster is Smile Happy’s stablemate Rattle N Roll. Also owned by the Mackin Family’s Lucky Seven Stables, Rattle N Roll won the $225,000 Blame Stakes (GIII) in his most recent start. Prior to his 1 ¼-length score in the Blame, Rattle N Roll was victorious in the Pimlico Special (GIII) and Ben Ali Stakes (GIII). Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who has been aboard both Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll in their most recent starts, will have the mount from post 4.
Godolphin’s Grade I winner Proxy will ship in to Ellis Park for the Stephen Foster. Trained by Mike Stidham, Proxy narrowly got by Last Samurai to win the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) in late April. Among Proxy’s other accolades in his career includes a three-quarters of a length win in last fall’s Clark Stakes presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs. The well-traveled Proxy has five career wins from 16 starts and has banked earnings of $1,775,970. Joel Rosario will ride Proxy and break from the rail.
Steve Moger’s Stilleto Boy achieved Grade I glory two starts ago in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI). The speedy son of Shackleford is based in California for trianer Ed Moger Jr. but has traveled to tracks throughout the country including Oaklawn, Prairie Meadows and Gulfstream Park. Stilleto Boy was the pacesetter in the Oaklawn Handicap but could not hold off Proxy and Last Samurai. Among the other notable victories in Stilleto Boy’s include the 2021 Iowa Derby and the 2022 California Stakes (GII). Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux will make the journey from California to Henderson for the mount and break from post 2.
Another horse that could show speed in the Stephen Foster is Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power. Trained by Brad Cox, West Will Power dueled on the lead in the Alysheba but gave way late to Smile Happy. Prior to the Alysheba, West Will Power dominated six rivals by 4 ¾ lengths in the New Orleans Classic (GII) at Fair Grounds. Jockey Flavien Prat will ride the six-time winner from post 6.
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