Churchill Downs was the place to be this weekend as the iconic track hosted two Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races, along with three other stakes events. The Stephen Foster Handicap is one of the biggest races of the Churchill Downs meet. Last year, the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner started his famous winning streak in the Stephen Foster, and the Fleur de Lis winner Forever Unbridled went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Let’s check out our Three Stars of the Week after the big night of racing:
We all knew that Pavel would win a big race eventually, but he is a very hard horse to predict. After breaking his maiden last year at Santa Anita, this horse was immediately thrown into the toughest competition in the country. His 3-year-old season was a bit of a roller-coaster, and before last Saturday night, he had finished fourth in three straight races to kick off his 4-year-old campaign, including in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. On Saturday night, he finally picked up his first Grade 1 win in the Stephen Foster after stalking the pace, then simply running away from the field down the stretch to win by nearly 4 lengths. The win punches his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic and will likely lead him to more big races in the near future.
2. Blue Prize
This horse loves going 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs. Last year, she was a runaway winner in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap when going that distance, and last Saturday, she returned to win the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap by a determined 1 1/2 lengths. After stalking the early pace right from the beginning, Blue Prize was in a perfect position turning for home before outlasting her rivals down the stretch. The win makes her 2-for-4 on the season and punches her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff later on this year. Blue Prize has missed the board just once in 14 starts, which clearly shows that she is a classy individual to never be taken lightly.
3. Mr. Misunderstood
Coming into 2018, Mr. Misunderstood had won five straight races, but he stepped up in competition to kick off the year and had lost three tough races in a row. That all changed Saturday night when he took home the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs by a 1/2-length in a very tight blanket finish. The win was his second career graded stakes victory at Churchill Downs, as he also won the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf last fall. His record is now 17-10-2-0 with career earnings of $574,714. A win like this opens the door for several possibilities throughout the summer; the 4-year-old seems to be back on track.