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Flashy Bull wins the Stephen Foster Handicap. Photos courtesy of EquiSportPhotos.com
Outside of Derby week, the biggest day of racing at Churchill Downs is Stephen Foster Handicap day with six graded stakes races on the card. In the main event, a field of eight older horses went to post in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Master Command was sent off as the 8-5 favorite off his win in the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne in April. In to challenge were undefeated 3-1 second choice Diamond Stripes, winner of the Pegasus Handicap last October, and 7-2 Magna Graduate, winner of two in a row including the Razorback at Oaklawn and the Excelsior Breeders' Cup at Aqueduct.
109-1 longest shot Mr. Umphrey sprinted 2 1/2 lengths clear of the field first time past the stands and set a brisk pace of 23.39, 46.45, and 1:11.09 before tiring badly to eventually finish last. 5-1 Wanderin Boy and 16-1 Wiggins battled for second place, ignoring the "rabbit", with 6-1 Flashy Bull stalking them in fourth. Turning for home, Wanderin Boy and Wiggins also tired from their pace duel and dropped out of contention, while Flashy Bull inherited the lead easily and pulled away to a 4 length advantage at the 1/8 pole after a mile in 1:35.76. Magna Graduate, who was wide throughout in seventh early, closed strongly through the long Churchill Downs stretch but could not catch Flashy Bull who held him off by a head to get the win in 1:48.63 over the fast track. It was just 1/2 a length back to Diamond Stripes in third. Favorite Master Command was empty in the lane and finished sixth.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Flashy Bull Albarado 14.20 6.80 4.40 3 Magna Graduate Gomez 4.20 3.60 1 Diamond Stripes Prado 3.80 Winning Time: 1:48.63 $2 Exacta 7-3 63.20 $2 Trifecta 7-3-1 227.40 $2 Superfecta 7-3-1-8 3,579.80
Flashy Bull returns after the race. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "This horse is just a different horse this year. It's just amazing what a different horse he is from last year, from 3 to 4 years old. He's just a new and improved horse and he's really just done everything right this year. He's training unbelievable in the morning and has been running great in the afternoon. It just worked out fabulous. Robby did a great job of settling him early, because he can be a bit keen. Robby did a great job. He rode him just like I hoped the race would unfold into the first turn and down the backside." McLaughlin said Flashy Bull will go next in the Whitney at Saratoga but will keep him away from stablemate Invasor.
His jockey Robby Albarado said, "This horse has improved with every start. Kiaran told me that I might want to give him the first jump as he's a little racy, but with the amount of speed in the race it was pretty easy getting him back. I saw a little traffic trouble in the first turn, but I was on the outside of it so I got a clear trip the whole way. I squeezed on him turning for home, and he went right on. He kind of opened up turning for home and he held them off at the end."
Winning owner Brett Brinkman said, "This was our first race with the horse, and we really didn't know what to expect. We knew he was talented; we knew he had speed. It played out to where he was on the front end by himself, and it definitely paid off in the end. The short field surprised me, but other than that it played out the way I thought it would on paper. I thought, maybe, that somebody would try to go up front with us, but I felt good about it during the running. We'll definitely keep him long on the grass."
Chelokee returns after the race. Winning trainer Michael Matz said, I'll tell you, it's a wonderful feeling (to come back and win at Churchill Downs). When he kept coming at him (Zanjero), it sure made it exciting. He can come back on a horse and Ramon (Dominguez) said he had enough horse, so I really don't think distance is a problem. This race was a lot harder than the last one (the Barbaro Stakes) and he showed he was up to the task. Peter (assistant trainer Brette) and I always said this horse was going to improve with racing and experience and he has a disposition like no other. He's just a terrific dispositioned horse."
Kenny McCarthy, assistant to winning trainer Bill Mott said, "We just missed last time with her (in the Distaff Turf Mile on May 5) and she had trained really well since the race. We came into the race today and Bill expected big things from her. She produced and it is great to see a new track record for her and a terrific result for us. We have been kind of knocking on the door here all meet long. It is nice to get a big one."
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "She's a very game mare, and of course we're very pleased. I'm going to speak to Mr. (owner Eugene) Melnyk regarding her next start. We've got a decision to make, either the Go for Wand or the Delaware Handicap for a million dollars. I'll let Mr., Melnyk make that decision. He's very excited; she's a homebred and we raced her mother, so it means a lot."
Winning trainer Patrick Biancone said, "She ran a good race. She ran very well the last time (the Edgewood on May 4). She slipped on the first turn the last time and came a bit too late (to get third). She likes this track. We just had to find a hole to come through and fortunately we did. She has a very big kick, she is a nice filly and she is acclimatizing very well. We have given her plenty of time and she is learning and could be a really good filly." Good Mood will start next at Saratoga either in the Lake George or the Lake Placid.
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