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Jockey Florent Geroux celebrates after winning the Stephen Foster aboard Gun Runner.
The third-richest race contested at Churchill Downs after the Kentucky Derby and Oaks is the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), featuring some of the top older horses in the country going 1 1/8 miles over the main track, with the winner earning automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) under the Win and You're In promotion. Conditions were excellent on Saturday night, with clear skies and temperatures in the mid 80's, with the main track fast and the Matt Winn turf course firm. Gun Runner was sent off as the 1-2 favorite in the field of 8 off his 2nd place finish in the Dubai World Cup (G1) after winning the Clark Handicap (G1) and Razorback Handicap (G3). In to challenge him included 11-2 second choice Honorable Duty, second in the Alysheba (G2) after winning the New Orleans Handicap (G2), and 6-1 third choice Bird Song, winner of the Alysheba.
Down the stretch with Gun Runner far out front.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Gun Runner Geroux 3.00 2.40 2.10 4 Honorable Duty Castellano 4.00 2.60 2 Breaking Lucky Contreras 3.00 Winning Time: 1:47.56 $2 Exacta 3-4 95.80 $2 Trifecta 3-4-2 351.20 $1 Superfecta 3-4-2-6 1,523.80
Gun Runner in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Florent Geroux said, "I was loaded the entire trip around there. He was doing everything so easily. This horse is truly unbelievable. He's one of the best horses I've ever ridden and to put forward this type of effort after running in Dubai is so impressive. I was a bit surprised to find myself on a lone-lead but I wasn't complaining one bit. What a horse."
Right: Gun Runner heads back to the barn. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "I think it was key taking our time with this horse. We always thought he would get better with age and he's proving that to us right now. It's special to win a Grade 1 but now we have our ticket punched to the Breeders' Cup. We got him to the Winner's Circle here at home and we set ourselves up for a great second-half campaign. I can't thank our owners enough. This horse is incredibly special in so many ways."
Left: Second place finisher Honorable Duty walks over from the barns before the race. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "Second best today. The winner, I give a lot of credit. He was much the best horse in the race. Unfortunately, not much speed in the race. I thought about it before the race, the way I handicapped the race, a little more speed, I thought Stanford was gonna go and (Bird Song) was going to go. They let him (Gun Runner) dictate the pace, nice comfortable rhythm, nice comfortable pace. I think it didn't help when my horse is coming from behind. I think it cost a little bit of the race."
Right: Third place finisher Breaking Lucky in the post parade. Jockey Luis Contreras said, "He always runs such a hard race. I thought we could've run second but we ran into some trouble in the stretch. I'm still proud of how well he ran." Trainer Reade Baker added, "We had a troubled trip down the lane, I'm not sure who exactly who got us in trouble but with a clearer trip I think we could've ran second. There was no catching the winner today."
The 2017 Kentucky Derby trophies were on display on Foster night. They are kept by Churchill Downs after the Derby to be engraved with the winner and his connections' names and were presented to the winning connections after the Wise Dan Stakes.
The distaff counterpart to the Stephen Foster is the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) for older fillies and mares also going 1 1/8 miles on the main track, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Forever Unbridled, unraced since 3rd in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) was the 11-10 favorite over 7-2 Big World, winner of the La Troienne (G1), and 4-1 Carrumba, 2nd in the DuPont Distaff (G3).
Jockey Luis Saez set 14-1 Apologynotaccepted to the front first time by and she set fractions of 24.26, 48.71, and 1:12.32 while pressed by Big World and stalked by Carrumba. Entering the lane Apologynotaccepted continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:37.04, but Forever Unbridled, 6th early under Joel Rosario, came out 5 wide for room and rallied to win going away by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:49.94. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to Carrumba third.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Forever Unbridled in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Dallas Stewart said, "Now that is what you call a racehorse. How lucky are we to have such an unbelievable horse like this in our barn? We have to give a lot of credit to Mr. (Charles) Fipke. He's done so much for this game and this horse is so special. I told Joel (Rosario) to get her settled early and keep her out of trouble. He was barely moving on her and she won easily. We just need to keep her happy and healthy and we'll have her ready for the Breeders' Cup."
Right: Forever Unbridled returns after the race. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "She's a tremendous horse. I got her settled early and when we went by the half-mile pole she was moving so easy. I just nudged her a bit and she took off. Dallas (Stewart) got her ready and did a tremendous job with her. To be able to ride a horse with this much class is such a blessing. I can't wait for what's next."
Kicking off the stakes quintet Saturday night was the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) for three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Kentucky Derby (G1) 8th place finisher McCraken was the 1-5 favorite in the field of 6 over 8-1 Aquamarine, 2nd in the Chick Lang, and 10-1 Excitations, 11th in the Pat Day Mile (G3). Aquamarine was quickest away through fractions of 23.58 and 47.48 while pressed by 16-1 Mo's Mojo and stalked by 10-1 Colonelsdarktemper. On the far turn Aquamarine tired allowing Mo's Mojo to inherit the front through 3/4 iin 1:23.26. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard McCraken, 5th early after stumbling at the start, swept to the lead 4 wide through 1 mile in 1:36.38, and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Colonelsdarktemper in 1:42.84. It was another 3/4 length back to 15-1 Society Beau third.
Full results chart
Left: McCraken in the winner's circle. Trainer Ian Wilkes said, "I loved that he relaxed (at the start, like he did early in his career). He left there listening to Brian, doing things the right way. I didn't give Brian any instructions. I just told him when I legged him up, 'You know him. You ride him. Ride with some confidence.' I loved everything about it. He come into the paddock really good today. Behind the gates, he was walking around like he had some confidence about him. And so that was good. And then when he left the gate, he just dropped the bit and listened to Brian. I was very pleased."
Right: McCraken gets hosed off after the race. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said, "Today, he was kind of back to his old self where he got into a nice rhythm around there. He wasn't wanting to overdo it the first part and then he just kind of built his confidence up as he went. ... He went on by those horses pretty easily and thought he lane he kind of did it the right way. You always hear it, but it was actually the perfect race that you're looking for for a horse coming back."
Closing out the stakes action on Saturday night a field of 12 three-year-old fillies went to post in the $100,000 Regret Stakes (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Edgewood (G3) 4th place finisher Proctor's Ledge was the 5-2 choice over 7-2 Sweeping Paddy, 3rd in the Edgewood, and 5-1 Chubby Star, 4th in the James W. Murphy. 33-1 Lke a Hurricane was loose on the lead under Brian Hernandez Jr. through fractions of 23.30, 47.04, and 1:11.62 while as many as 5 lengths clear of 18-1 Summer Luck and Sweeping Paddy. On the far turn Like a Hurricane tired badly and dropped to last. Sweeping Paddy and jockey Luis Saez easily took over at the 3/16 pole through 1 mile in 1:36.01, and drew off late to win by 3 1/2 lengths over late-running favorite Proctor's Ledge in 1:47.62. It was another length back to Summer Luck third.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Sweeping Paddy in the winner's circle. Trainer Dale Romans said, "This horse is so special to us. I've trained her mother, grandmother and father. What a great win for us and the owners. She just came flying home at the end. I thought Luis (Saez) gave her a perfect ride. What more could you ask for?" Jockey Luis Saez added, "The pace was a little bit quicker today than the last start and she just came flying at the end. We sat in a perfect spot the entire way around and did everything great."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Proctor's Ledge returns after the race. Jockey Corey Lanerie said, "I had a good trip. Got there, got out at the top of the lane, just couldn't get there in time." Trainer Brendan Walsh added, "She ran great, can't be disappointed, you know. Just second again (after finishing second in the Foster with Honorable Duty)."
The $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes (G2) featured a field of 8 older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Last year's winner Pleuven was the 2-1 favorite over 3-1 Kasaqui, 4th in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1), and 5-1 Conquest Panthera, 3rd in the Makers 46 Mile (G1). Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan sent 7-1 Chocolate Ride to the lead through fractions of 23.81, 47.25 and 1:10.87 while pressed by 10-1 Security Risk and stalked by 11-2 Bondurant. On the far turn, jockey James Graham sent Kasaqui, 6th early, to the front 4 wide. Kept to task by Graham, Kasaqui powered away to a 2 3/4 length win in 1:40.26. It was another 1 1/4 length back to Conquest Panthera third.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Kasaqui in the winner's circle. Winning jockey James Graham said, "He broke sharp, settled back and came absolutely sprinting home at the end. I wish all of my races were this simple. Once I got him in the clear, he had his mind on winning. He ran a great race and I'm so proud of him." Trainer Ignacio Correas IV added, "I'm so happy of our entire stable. This was a great win and I'm very proud of my horse."
Right: Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Pleuven returns after the race. Jockey Corey Lanerie said, "You know he just wasn't good enough today. He was in a good spot, I thought. And when I asked him to go, he wasn't fast enough."
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