Hot List Graded Stakes Review: The Stephen Foster


Moonshine Mullin winning the Stephen Foster Handicap. (Photo by Reed Palmer Photography)

The Stephen Foster, with its Grade 1 status and $500,000 purse, brought out some of the key players in the East Coast’s handicap division, but failed to generate much excitement about the future.

There wasn’t much movement in the wagering, the final time wasn’t special, and the performances of the top three finishers raised more question marks than eliminated them.

We’ll start with the victorious Moonshine Mullin.

He was tenacious in the stretch, fending off a stretch bid by Departing and drawing off to beat the late-running Will Take Charge by 1 ¾ lengths.

It was certainly a solid effort, but we’re talking about a horse claimed for $40,000 in November at a time when he had just four wins in 25 career starts. The Stephen Foster marked his fourth straight win and came on the heels of a victory in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs, but with his background, we can hear a clock ticking in the background. He seems a better candidate to regress from the Foster than progress, so we’ll pass on assigning him a letter and placing him on the Hot List.

The favored Will Take Charge showed improvement in finishing second, but considering the Foster was his fifth race of the year following a tough, 11-race campaign at three, it’s hard to generate confidence that he’ll bloom in the fall like he did last year. Considering the low odds that will follow him to his next race, there’s no reason to tab him as one to watch.

Departing, who was third, had a built-in excuse since it was just his second race of the year, but he has yet to prove he’s capable of handling Grade 1 company.

The others in the field also did little to impress, leaving no one on the Hot List and giving off the impression that if there’s a horse to watch in the East’s handicap division, it’s a horse who didn’t run in the Stephen Foster – namely, Palace Malice.

The Hot List, founded by turf writer/handicapper Bob Ehalt in 2011, blends a detailed analysis of a race with late wagering trends to pick out the horses with the best chance of running a winning race in their next start. Hot List horses are rated in four lettered categories:

A : A preferred horse to watch off his effort in the race                

B : A secondary horse to watch off his effort in the race                

*C: Went down 2 or more betting notches in the final minutes of wagering and finished 1st through 3rd

*D: Went down 2 or more betting notches in the final minutes of wagering and finished 4th or worse

* - 4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.

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