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West Will Power won the 2023 Stephen Foster Stakes (G1) at Ellis Park, a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Is the Brad Cox-trained 6-year-old son of Bernardini now the top older dirt-routing male? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power notched the first Grade I in the history of Ellis Park when he defeated seven rivals by a half-length in Saturday’s $1 million Stephen Foster, a “Win and You’re In” Classic division race for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Flavien Prat, West Will Power completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.93, just .39 seconds off the track record set by Seize the Night earlier this meet.
Speed Bias set the early tempo in the Stephen Foster and took command of the field through the first quarter-mile fraction of :23.74. Around the first turn, Prat moved West Will Power to second and tracked just off Speed Bias’ hip. Up the backstretch, their positions remained unchanged after a half-mile time of :46.97. Speed Bias completed three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.83 but began to get tired on the lead. West Will Power inherited the front just inside the quarter-mile pole but had to hold off several closers including Rattle N Roll, who was closing to his outside and the stretch-running Happy American, who was dodging through tiring horses on the inside. In the final stages of the Stephen Foster, West Will Power continued to fight on the front end and held Rattle N Roll at bay by a half-length.
“He was cruising all the way around there,” Prat said. “He just carried me home to the wire down the stretch. I was really impressed by the way he won this winter at Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Classic (GII). It was a different setup last time out in the Alysheba (GII). He came back here to Ellis and the race shape was much more to his style.”
“I think he can handle a mile-and-a-quarter in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI),” Cox said. “I was much more confident with him getting a target to track off in this race. We’ll see how the figures come back but I’m very proud of the way this horse has developed. It’s a credit to the Wests and this horse to have the patience to improve with age. It’s taken him awhile to get to this level. It’s really cool to go down in the history books by winning the first Grade I in the history of Ellis Park.”
For his victory in the Stephen Foster, West Will Power will receive an all-entries fee paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
West Will Power’s overall record now stands at 17-7-7-1 with purse earnings of $1,745,770.
West Will Power is a 6-year-old son of Bernardini out of the Wild Event mare Wild Promises. He was bred in Kentucky by his owners.
1. West Will Power ($6.14, $3.96, $3.16) 2. Rattle N Roll (X, $6.74, $5,22) 3. Happy American (X, X, $12.22) 4. Last Samurai 5. Smile Happy 6. Stilleto Boy 7. Speed Bias 8. Proxy
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Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey, Rattle N Roll, runner-up: “Around the turn I still thought we were going to win. The stretch is shorter here than at Churchill and I think that ended up a disadvantage to us today. He ran a great race.”
Neil Pessin, trainer, Happy American, third: “He ran a huge race. I’m super proud of him. He’s been one of the only horses I’ve seen close ground here and ran a big effort doing so.”
Kent Desormeaux, jockey, Stilleto Boy, sixth: “I thought he ran his race and got into a good position early. He just didn’t have it when it mattered.”
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