How to Bet the Stephen Foster Handicap

Profile Picture: Scott Shapiro

June 15th, 2018

An excellent 11-race card is on tap on Saturday for the second “Downs After Dark” this spring at legendary . 

Five graded stakes events are slated over the course of the evening headlined by the Grade 1 .

The mile and an eighth race for three year olds and upward is #6 Backyard Heaven’s race to lose. The son of Tizway got off to a late start to his career, but he has done almost nothing wrong since a runner-up effort on debut at Belmont Park last September for trainer Chad Brown.

The Ken and Sarah Ramsey owned colt has rattled off three straight triple digit BRIS speed ratings dating back to his maiden victory at Aqueduct on December 10th of 2017, including a 105 in the Grade 2 Alysheba over this racetrack on Oaks Day last month. If he can replicate that effort in his first try at nine furlongs he will be very tough to beat. Instead of hoping he regresses off of two big efforts dating back to mid-March, I will try to find value underneath in the exotics instead.

#1 Irish War Cry is the likely second choice off of his 104 BRIS speed rating in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special for trainer Graham Motion. However, that was against weaker and came over a sloppy going. He has struggled to put back-to-back races together throughout his career, so I expect the son of Curlin to take a step backwards, which will likely result in an off the board finish on Saturday evening.

#2 Patch has a massive fan base due to having only one-eye, but he is a solid racehorse as well. He only has two career wins, but has hit the board in 5 of 7, including a solid four-year-old debut against high-level allowance company at Belmont Park. In that return effort the son of Union Rags raced against the flow and still was able to prevail by a neck in the end. He is unlikely to get to the wire first in the Stephen Foster, but I like his chances to hit the board under jockey Luis Saez.

#9 Pavel ships into Louisville after a well-beaten fourth in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 26th. His best effort should put him “in the mix,” but I am a bit concerned that he has been mismanaged by his connections despite obvious talent. I can see him running second or third, but I can also see him failing to fire.

#1 Honorable Duty did not get much out of his return race when speed horse Conquest Windycity missed the break allowing the veteran gelding to set extremely soft fractions in a five-horse field on May 20th. He really tailed off in his last two starts of 2017, so it is a difficult read as to whether he can get back to his best efforts during the first half of last year.

#3 Hawaakom has only won 2 of 11 since the start of 2017 for trainer Wesley Hawley, but he has hit the board in 6 of 9 over this surface. He has very little shot to run by the entire group, but should be passing a number of tiring rivals late under leading rider Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Suggested Wagers:

I am going to lean on Backyard Heaven in the top spot of vertical wagers and hope Patch can put forth a career best performance in the second start of his four-year-old campaign. If he does it should be good enough to hit the board.

$10 Exacta

6-2 = $10

$2 Trifecta Wheel

6 with 2 with 1+3+4+7+9 = $10

$1 Trifecta Wheel

6 with 1+3+4+7+9 with 2 = $10

$1 Superfecta Wheel

6 with 2 with 1+3+9 with ALL = $15

$1 Superfecta Wheel

6 with 1+3+9 with 2 with ALL = $15

Total Budget = $50

Good luck!