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Jockey Miguel Mena after winning the Stephen Foster
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. Conditions were excellent for this year's renewal, with a dry fast track and sunny skies with temperatures in the high 70's. A field of 11 went to post in the main event, with Regal Ransom sent off as the lukewarm 9-2 favorite off 2 straight runner-up finishes, in the Sir Shackleton Handicap at Gulfstrea and the Alyshebe Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. In to challenge him included 49-10 Giant Oak, fifth in the Alysheba last out, and 5-1 Duke of Mischief, off his win in the Charles Town Classic (G3).
Jockey Javier Castellano sent Regal Ransom to the lead first time past the stands and he set fractions of 23.96, 48.74, and 1:13.37 while being pressed by 7-1 Mission Impazible to his outside. Entering the stretch, Regal Ransom tired badly allowing Mission Impazible to inherit the lead through 1 mile in 1:37.88. 37-1 longest shot Pool Play, last on the turn, came out very wide into the lane and closed with a rush to catch Mission Impazible in the final strides to win by a neck in 1:50.52 over the fast track. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to 11-2 Apart third, while favorite Regal Ransom finished last.
Check out the other three graded races on the undercard here.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 8 Pool Play Mena 75.20 29.40 14.60 11 Mission Impazible Castellano 8.40 5.00 3 Apart Leparoux 4.40 Winning Time: 1:50.52 $2 Exacta 8-11 767.40 $2 Trifecta 8-11-3 5,745.80 $2 Superfecta 8-11-3-9 35,512.60
Left: Pool Play in the winner's circle with his trainer Mark Casse on the far left. Casse said, "I was a little concerned early in the race because I felt like the fractions were a little soft. I was also afraid that Miguel (Mena) was going to have to go really wide, but he did a great job and only had to swing him out on the final turn. It was a great ride by him and the horse ran great."
Right: Pool Play in the post parade. Jockey Miguel Mena said, "The fractions were pretty soft so I didn't want to get him too far back. I tried to save some ground with him and not go too wide. He was handling the track perfectly the whole time and turning for home I wheeled him out and he just exploded. This is probably the biggest win of my career."
Left: Second place finisher Mission Impazible in the post parade. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "It was a big race and a great performance. I'm so happy with the way he did it today. Unfortunately we lost the race by a bob, but I give all the credit to my horse. He enjoyed when he got to the lead – he was just galloping. And when I asked him he took off. I saw (Pool Play) way outside, my horse never saw the other horse when he went by. I think (Pool Play) surprised him."
Right: Third place finisher Apart in the post parade. Jockey Julien Leparoux said, "He ran great. It was the first time I had ridden him, so I didn't know him that much. I thought I had so much horse, I could not wait to go. But when I asked him the other one (Duke of Mischief) came around me and kind of took my spot, and by the time he got going it was too late. I think if I would have asked him a little earlier he would have won it. I know him now, so next time he'll be tough."
A field of just 4 three-year-olds went in the $100,000 Jefferson Cup Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf after half the field scratched out. American Turf (G3) winner Banned was the 3-10 favorite over 7-2 Perregaux, second in an allowance last out, 6-1 Benergy, off a maiden win, and 8-1 Redboard, also off a maiden win. Redboard was sent to the lead by jockey Julien Leparoux and he set easy fractions of 24.69, 49.31, and 1:13.58 over the firm course, while being stalked by Banned. At the top of the stretch, Redboard tired allowing Banned to take over, opening up a 3 length lead at the 1/8 pole. Banned cruised under the line 2 lengths in front of Benergy in 1:43.66. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Perregaux third, and 2 1/4 more to pacesetter Redboard last.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Banned in the winner's circle. Trainer Tom Proctor said, "You put them in the gate and they tell you how good they are. I was really confident in him coming into the race, but the four horse field scared me. Too many things can happen in a small field that will make you not get there. I think the logical choice is to take him to Arlington or Virginia now…or we may even take him to Del Mar. Mr. (Leonard) Lavin is a big California guy so he may push for us to run out there."
Right: Banned in the post parade. Jockey Jose Lezcano said, "He is a very nice horse and has a lot of talent. He broke good and sat comfortable and then went very well at the end. I felt like a winner the whole time."
Left: Second place finisher Benergy gets saddled before the race. Trainer Dale Romans said, "I think he's a good colt. I'm very proud of the way he ran. He's improving every race. I think (Banned) is probably the best 3-year-old turf horse in the country right now, but I think our horse even wants to run a little further."
Right: Third place finisher Perregaux in the paddock before the race. The 7-2 second choice stalked the pace 3 wide under jockey Robby Albarado in third, and could not improve late finishing third beaten 5 1/4 lengths. The Neil Howard trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 3 thirds in 7 starts, earning $85,800 for owner-breeder Courtlandt Farms.
Undercard stakes results and photos, includes the Matt Winn Stakes, Regret Stakes, and the President of the United Arab Emirates Cup for the Arabians.
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