Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs is the first North American Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” prep race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic this November, and brings together several of the best older dirt horses in training for what shapes up to be a competitive and exciting race.
The Stephen Foster winner receives an automatic spot in the starting gate for the $7 million Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7, and the race has been very important in influencing the World Championships through the years. Five horses that won the Stephen Foster trained on to capture the Classic later in the fall: Black Tie Affair (1991); Awesome Again (1998); Saint Liam (2005); Blame (2010); and Gun Runner (2017).
stephen foster stakes
Tom’s d’Etat, winner of the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs last fall, and By My Standards, recent winner of the Oaklawn Handicap, headline an eight-horse field for the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster. The race will be broadcast live along with the Fleur de Lis Stakes on NBC, and has a scheduled post time of 5:50 p.m. ET.
Read on for more information about the starters for Saturday’s 39th Stephen Foster Stakes.
1. Fearless (12-1 morning-line odds): He’s showing signs of fulfilling high expectations that have been there since he started racing in December 2019. Comes into the Stephen Foster off of a rallying win in a slowly run allowance-optional claimer at Churchill on May 30. Will need to step up his game against a far tougher group and third or fourth appears to be his ceiling.
2. Pirate’s Punch (15-1): The probable pacesetter gets “Big Money Mike” to ride and is a tough-as-nails type that has been in excellent form since last summer. But he’s stepping up in class big-time and has never raced at this distance. Could hang around into midstretch but it’s hard to see him winning.
3. Alkhaatam (30-1): He entered last year’s Stephen Foster as an intriguing longshot choice off of two straight wins but was overmatched and finished 11th. This year, he arrives in good form again, having won two of his last three including a solid win going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill on June 7. But he’s not shown the ability to hang with the top horses here.
4. Multiplier (10-1): This veteran has found a home racing in California, punching in triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures in all five of his starts out West this year, two of them on turf. He nearly won the 1 ¼-mile, Grade 1 Big ’Cap out there, too, losing by a neck. That field was not as impressive as the one he’ll face Saturday, but he’s a wild card in the Foster and could hit the board.
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5. Tom’s d’Etat (1-1): Patiently handled by Al Stall, this 7-year-old has risen to near the top of the handicap division over the past year, winning four of his last six including the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill last fall and his 2020 debut in the Oaklawn Mile in April. He finished a good third in last year’s Stephen Foster after setting a pressured pace but has run better since then when stalking, and that should be the strategy in this year’s renewal. The one to beat.
6. By My Standards (5-2): Comes into the Stephen Foster 3-for-3 this year (two of them Grade 2 stakes), drawing clear in the stretch with authority in each start. He is also 3-for-3 in his career at this 1 1/8-mile distance. The only poor start in his career was last year’s Kentucky Derby in which he endured a brutal trip. A major threat.
7. Silver Dust (10-1): The other Bret Calhoun runner in Saturday’s Stephen Foster is a multiple graded stakes winner and the epitome of a professional, consistent racehorse who rarely fails to give a good effort. He’s had trouble closing out races in deep stretch, though, which makes him a logical choice to fill out exactas and trifectas but less so as a win candidate.
8. Owendale (4-1): Runner-up to Tom’s d’Etat in last fall’s Clark Handicap, he made a sharp comeback in the Blame Stakes at Churchill last month, winning the one-turn mile race with a late rally. He comes from well back and therefore will need a hot pace and a good trip in the Foster, but Owendale has paired well with Florent Geroux over the past year-plus and is a must use in all exotic tickets.
THE PICK: Tom’s d’Etat
THE LONGSHOT: Multiplier
THE SUPERFECTA: 5-6-8-4