There’s no Triple Crown winner to be paraded at this year’s Stephen Foster Stakes Downs After Dark. The officially engraved trophy will be presented to the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Country House — presumably with no asterisk. Lacking a superstar, the watchword of this night is competitive. What is lacked in stardom is replaced by wagering challenges. Good luck. As of 11:30 a.m. ET, no changes have impacted these picks.
Race 5 | Grade III Matt Winn Stakes | 1 1/16 miles
1. Mr. Money
4. Nolo Cotesto
Comment: Mr. Money has two wins in three races over this track, incuding the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile — the off-the-board race is the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He seems to be the best bet of these stakes races. Limonite seems to be improving in addition to three in-the-money finishes here. Signalman was on the Kentucky Derby trail and has been in the money in three starts here, but a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes does little to inspire here and an in-the-money finish is the best expected. Nolo Contesto gets Joel Rosario back, but hasn’t started since being fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby — and this spot may be too much of that time away.
Race 6 | Grade II Wise Dan Stakes | 1 1/16 miles turf
1. March to the Arch
2. Admission Office
4. Siem Riep
Comment: This is a race where multi-race bettors will want to put as many of the 14 starters (assuming no scratches) on their tickets as possible. How often do you see a morning line with co-favorites at 5-1? March to the Arch gets the not here despite being zero for two on this course. He can improve in his third start of the year and can’t be knocked for finishing four lengths behind Bricks and Mortar in the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic, with that winner going on to win the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day. Admission finished second by a half length in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes to Catholic Boy and can’t be ignored. Itsinthepost probably has the most back class of these, but will bet against (other than multi-race wagers) as 301 days on the shelf is a lot to overcome.
Race 7 | Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap | 1 1/8 miles
1. Blue Prize
3. She’s a Julie
Comment: Well, Blue Prize was the top pick here last year — and won. If it ain’t broke … . Blue Prize finished third in the Grade 1 LaTroienne Stakes here, beaten by She’s a Julie, but figures to improve in her second start of the year. Elate is consistent and must be respected off a third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom to Midnight Bisou, who went on to win the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes. She’s a Julie can’t be thrown out on multi-race bets but may have peaked in the LaTroienne.
Race 8 | Grade II Stephen Foster Handicap | 1 1/8 miles
1. Tom’s d’Etat
2. Seeking the Soul
3. Gift Box
Comment: Tom’s d’Etat gets a narrow edge based on some of his best starts being on this track and the fact that there’s no McKinzie in this field like in the Grade 2 Alysheba. Seeking the Soul has only been off the board twice in 11 starts here and can improve in his second start back on U.S. soil after a trip to Dubai. Gift Box beat McKinzie in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and has to be used on multi-race tickets. Thirstforlife looks great sometimes but seems to be a notch below the other picks.
Race 9 | Grade III Regret Stakes | 1 1/8 miles turf
1. Delta’s Kingdom
2. Winter Sunset
4. Hungry Kitten
Comment: Delta’s Kingdom picks up John Velazquez and should appreciate the added distance. Winter Sunset exits the Grade 3 Edgewood after an awkward start and can improve. Varenka will try to get a graded stakes win off her maiden score, but that’s not inconceivable in her third start of the year.
Race 10 | Grade I (Arabian) President of the United Arab Emirates Cup | 1 1/16 miles
1. Easter Man
2. Rb Texas Hold Em
4. Uptown Cruisedirector
Comment: So, an Arabian race. We’ll take a stab. Easter Man is on a three-race win streak and seems to be running at a higher level than when third here last year.