Moonshine Mullin Capable of Mild Upset in Foster


Moonshine Mullin (above, inside) held off Golden Ticket to win the Alysheba Stakes on May 2 at Churchill Downs. Moonshine Mullin will attempt to extend his winning streak to five in the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday at Churchill. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 33rd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap features a pair of recent winners in stakes races in Revolutionary (Grade 3 Pimlico Special Handicap) and Moonshine Mullin (Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes) as well as the runner-up from those races, Prayer For Relief and Golden Ticket, respectively. Although sixth in the Alysheba, Will Take Charge won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap prior to that and could be a factor particularly as he won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last fall. Departing won the Grade 2 Super Derby last summer and enters the Foster off a win in his first start of 2014. Long River missed by a neck in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes in March and hopes to rebound off a poor recent effort in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.

Moonshine Mullin goes for his fifth straight win in the Stephen Foster, with three of the previous four earned when leading from start to finish, including last month at Churchill when posting the upset to win the Alysheba Stakes over Golden Ticket, Mylute and Will Take Charge. His win in the Alysheba should not have come as much of a surprise as Moonshine Mullin ran with some of the best as a 3-year-old in 2011, notably finishing second to Stay Thirsty in the Travers Stakes. Prior to the Alysheba, Moonshine Mullin earned a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure and, although regressing to a 103 figure with his most recent win, might be able to duplicate that effort in the Foster. It appears he could get an easy early lead and relax while dictating the tempo, which would give him an opportunity to again hold strongly in the stretch to prevail.

Revolutionary won the Louisiana Derby in March 2013 then rallied from 18th to third in the Kentucky Derby on this track. Rested following a fifth-place finish in last year’s Belmont Stakes, Revolutionary returned to the races off a seven-month rest in January to win with a strong 109 Equibase Speed Figure. Two races later, he won the Pimlico Special with a 114 Equibase Speed Figure. Jockey Mike Smith comes in from California to ride Revolutionary as he has in the colt's last two races. Never worse than third in three tries at similar distances, the horse should be in the thick of the action at the finish of the Foster.

Prayer for Relief missed to Revolutionary by a neck in the Pimlico Special last month, improving from a 100 Equibase Speed Figure when fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap in April to a 113 figure. Having earned a career-best 119 figure last June winning the Cornhusker Handicap, Prayer for Relief is on a pattern to improve off his last effort and run very competitively in this situation, save for the fact he has never finished in the top three in his three career races at Churchill Downs.

Long River may not have cared for the unique layout of the track at Charles Town Races in April when fifth in the Charles Town Classic, but prior to that earned a pair of field-high 121 speed figures. One of those efforts came at the 1 1/8-mile Foster distance when missing by a neck in the Excelsior Stakes. Prior to that, Long River won three races in a row while improving his figure each time. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., currently third in North America among all jockeys in 2014, has ridden Long River in each of his 11 career starts and comes down from New York to ride. As such, Long River must be considered a contender to post the upset in this race.


Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Three more horses deserve mention although I feel they may not have nearly the same probability to win as the four main contenders above. Departing earned a 108 Equibase Speed Figure while winning at Churchill Downs at the end of April, his first start since September. Although he won the Super Derby and West Virginia Derby last summer, the quality of the horses he beat isn’t near the runners he faces here. Golden Ticket was only a length behind Moonshine Mullin in the Alysheba and two before that he earned a 117 Equibase Speed Figure that would make him competitive here if repeated. On the other hand, he made the lead in the stretch in the Alysheba and lost the lead in the final yards. Will Take Charge won the similar Clark Handicap on this track last November before a fine runner-up effort in the Donn Handicap with a career-best 123 Equibase Speed Figure. He won the Oaklawn Handicap in April, beating Revolutionary, but had no excuse whatsoever for his sixth-place effort as the heavy favorite in the Alysheba last month.

Mylute (107 best Equibase Speed Figure) and Jaguar Paw (110 best Equibase Speed Figure) round out the field.

My Selections:

Moonshine Mullin


Prayer For Relief

Long River

Click here for detailed analysis and selections of all the races at Churchill Downs.


$500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap

Saturday, Race 8, Churchill Downs, post time 9:39 p.m. ET

1 1/8 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds and older








Mike Smith


Todd Pletcher


Jaguar Paw

Shaun Bridgmohan


Stephen Lyster


Moonshine Mullin

Calvin Borel


Randy Morse


Will Take Charge

Gary Stevens


D. Wayne Lukas



James Graham


Tom Amoss



Robby Albarado


Al Stall Jr.


Golden Ticket

Julien Leparoux


Ken McPeek


Long River

Irad Ortiz Jr.


Kiaran McLaughlin


Prayer For Relief

John Velazquez


Dale Romans


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