LOUISVILLE, KY – Charles Fipke’s homebred Seeking the Soul grinded his way to the lead in deep stretch before necking out a very game Quip to win Saturday’s $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs.

The Stephen Foster is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Seeking the Soul receiving an automatic berth in the Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, November 2.

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Breaking from post 4 under John Velazquez at 9/2 odds, Seeking the Soul pulled slightly but soon settled within 4 lengths of early leader Tom’s d’Etat through fractions of :24.60, :49.43, and 1:13.44. Through the far turn, Quip began applying pressure along the outside of Tom’s d’Etat, and at the top of the stretch, they commenced a hard-fought stretch duel.

Behind them, Velazquez had tipped Seeking the Soul out three-wide in an effort to chase down the front-runners. Rallying strongly along their outside, Seeking the Soul collared them at the 1/8 pole, and by the 1/16 pole, Tom’s d’Etat had fallen off. Quip, however, refused to yield and fought back gamely, but his effort ultimately proved not enough, as Seeking the Soul inched past late for the win. The Dallas Stewart trainee crossed with a neck advantage in a final time of 1:49.27 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.

“As soon as I broke out there and got into the first turn, he was a little more aggressive than I want him to be,” Velazquez said. “He’s never been that close in the first part of the race, but I got him back to where I wanted him to be, got comfortable where he was, and then down the stretch, pulling out, he had it.”

Quip was 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Tom’s d’Etat for second, while the 2/1 favorite Gift Box made a failed bid at the top of the stretch and fell back to fourth. Thirstforlife took fifth by a length over Yoshida, with Exulting in seventh. Runaway GhostTenfoldKing ZacharyAlkhaatam, and Rated R Superstar completed the order of finish.

Seeking the Soul’s win was his first since winning the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) here last November and improved his overall record to 27-7-6-7, including a local record of 12-4-2-4.

“He ran really well here the last time out (finishing third in the Alysheba Stakes [G2]), and we knew coming from Dubai (where he finished eighth in the Dubai World Cup [G1]), he probably wasn’t going to be 100%,” Velazquez said. “He had the perfect timing to win (the Alysheba), just like this one. Today, he was right back to where he normally is, high energy.”

The 6-year-old son of Perfect Soul (another Fipke homebred) increased his career bankroll to $3,335,802 after taking home the $345,960 winner’s share of the purse.

“We will definitely be in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year,” Stewart said of his pupil who finished second here in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. “This horse is so special to our entire barn. We have to thank Mr. Fipke for allowing us to train him. With family and friends here tonight, this is as good as it gets – we’re in the Classic.”

Seeking the Soul returned $11.20 to win, $6.20 to place, and $4.20 to show. Quip brought back $12.20 to place and $8.20 to show, while Tom’s d’Etat paid $4.80 to show.