It’s questionable whether Stevie Foster, despite doo-dahing to the Camptown Races, ever saw Bardstown’s Federal Hill mansion before or after writing the anthem of the commonwealth, My Old Kentucky Home. Nonetheless, writing the song that brings tears before every Kentucky Derby has earned Mr. Foster a stakes race in his name at Churchill Downs.
Here are picks for the Stephen Foster Handicap and other stakes Saturday at the Louisville races. Will be updated later to reflect any scratches. Doo-dah.
Race 5 | Grade III Matt Winn Stakes | 1 1/16 miles
3. Mo’s Mojo
Comment: Mccracken looks a step or two above anything else here. A likely single in multi-race bets.
Race 6 | Grade II Wise Dan Stakes | 1 1/16 miles turf
3. Thatcher Street
4. Conquest Panthera
Comment: Kasaqui was beaten in this race less than a length last year, was a respectable fourth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and is the value here if the morning line of 6-1 holds. Pleuven looks to repeat last year’s win here, would not be a surprise and should be used in multi-race wagers — as should Thatcher Street, last year’s third-place finisher and a consistent Churchill turf performer.
Race 7 | Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap | 1 1/8 miles
1. Big World
3. Forever Unbridled
Comment: Forever Unbridled is the class of the race, but will be betting she’s vulnerable in her 2017 debut. Big World took it to another level in the Grade I La Troienne and can win replicating anything close to that effort (the one wildcard is whether that performance was aided by an off track). Apologynotaccepted should be on or near the lead with Big World and will be well positioned either way.
Race 8 | Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap | 1 1/8 miles
1. Gun Runner
3. Honorable Duty
4. Bird Song
Comment: Trainer Steve Asmussen got to the Stephen Foster winner’s circle off a Dubai World Cup layoff with a horse named Curlin. Certainly not saying Gun Runner is Curlin but not expecting the dull effort sometimes seen off that layoff. He’s carrying five pounds more than any other competitor here for good reason and will be a single in my multi-race strategy (except maybe a saver ticket).
Race 9 | Grade III Regret Stakes | 1 1/8 miles turf
1. Proctor’s Ledge
2. Sweeping Paddy
3. Chubby Star
4. Star Bear
Comment: Proctor’s Ledge and Sweeping Paddy have been distinguished by their company (Edgewood winner La Coronel is off to jolly old England’s Royal Ascot and runner-up Dream Dancing was third most recently in a Grade III at Belmont Park during its Belmont Stakes festival). Chubby Star beat Sweeping Paddy two races ago, but will have to overcome an outside post position, as will Star Bear.