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LOUISVILLE, KY – Saturday might be closing day at Churchill Downs, but don’t let that get you down because the track has seven stakes carded, and none are bigger than the $600,000 Stephen Foster Stakes (G2).
Slated as race 11, the Stephen Foster serves as a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Classic. A field of nine will contest this year’s event that carries a local post time of 5:59 PM ET.
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Headlining this event is Maxfield, who’s won 6 of 7 career starts. Last time out, he picked up his third victory over the local oval, taking home the Alysheba Stakes (G2) in dominating fashion. Jose Ortiz will be back aboard the Brendan Walsh-trained colt, breaking from post 8.
“We shipped him up from Keeneland last week and worked an easy 1/2-mile (at Churchill Downs),” Walsh said. “He did most of his work at Keeneland prior to the Foster. He’s a fit and happy horse. We’re ready to go and excited to get this race underway.”
The Bret Calhoun-trained Silver Dust will challenge the big favorite after winning the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last time out. He has been a bit inconsistent over his career, but at his best, he’s shown to be capable of winning these types of races. Adam Beschizza will be along for the ride, breaking from post 5.
One horse looking to rebound from a dud effort last time out is Warrior’s Charge, who broke poorly and finished next to last in the Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) at Lone Star. The horse does his best running when on the lead, so look for jockey Florent Geroux to hustle him to the front right from the gate. He’ll break from post position 6 for this contest.
The full field from the rail out: Chess Chief, Empty Tomb, Necker Island, Sprawl, Silver Dust, Warrior’s Charge, South Bend, Maxfield, and Visitant.
#8 Maxfield – Simply put, if he shows up with his best effort expect him to dominate here. He’s defeated many of these horses in the past and the new challengers leave a lot to be desired. There’s no need for a long reason as to why he should win this. Just show up with your race, Maxfield, and you’ll beat these guys.
#6 Warrior’s Charge – He’s been brutal this season; however, he once again looks like he could be the lone speed. He had the same type of pace setup 2 back and ran ok, finishing fifth behind some solid runners in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Last time out was a total disaster after a really poor break. If he can get to the front here, then he might be able to take this field all the way at a decent price.
#1 Chess Chief – In races of this caliber he always seems like a hit the board type that will be running up and passing tired horses in the stretch. He was absolutely no match for Maxfield last time out, and shouldn’t be today, but can still hit the board with a little luck.
#5 Silver Dust – Inconsistent is the best way to describe this horse. It had been a while since we saw a big effort from him; however, he showed up with a nice victory last time out in the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. This race will be tougher for him, but he can hit the board with a similar effort.
#3 Necker Island – He was able to find the winners circle last time out over this race track against allowance foes, which was his second start off of a long layoff. It’s likely we see him improve a bit more in this spot, while we also know he is not intimidated by running in extremely tough races. He’ll show up with a solid effort, which could put him in the mix at a nice price.
#7 South Bend – This horse has proven to be useful at the lower levels, but that probably won’t help him much here. He’s a fringe “hit the board at a price” candidate, but winning would be a surprise.
#2 Empty Tomb – He comes into the race hot, winning an allowance over this track last time out by 1 1/2 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion. The pace will surely be a bit quicker in this spot, though, against much tougher competition.
#9 Visitant – He finished second to Maxfield last time out in the Alysheba after setting the early pace. He’ll most likely try to repeat that trip, but he wasn’t even in the same category as Maxfield back then and is in no position to change that here.
#4 Sprawl – We’ll need to see some improvement from him in order to have a chance; however, he does possess enough early speed to make things interesting. He’s a speed-and-fade type at this level, but he could play a significant role in the early pace.
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