Classic berth on line in Stephen Foster

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

June 15th, 2018

Churchill Downs will play host to a fine card, with five graded races including the $500,000 Stephen Foster H. (G1) on Saturday evening's “Downs After Dark” program. Nine are set for the 1 1/8-mile feature.

In addition, the Foster victor will earn a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on as part of the “Win & You’re In Classic Division.”

Here’s a look at the contestants:

#1 HONORABLE DUTY – Brendan Walsh trainee was a fine allowance winner in preparation of this and draws well on the rail. Distorted Humor gelding was second to the mighty Gun Runner in the 2017 Stephen Foster and should be prominent from the start.

#2 PATCH – Classic-placed son of Union Rags made a winning return at Belmont in his 2018 bow and will aim for a first graded win today. Todd Pletcher pupil has some class to him and will be rallying in the lane beneath Luis Saez.

#3 HAWAAKOM – Alysheba (G2) second has a good turn of foot but was a non-factor while fourth in this assignment last year. Wesley Hawley charge is not especially consistent, though his Razorback (G3) romp three back shows how good he can be on his best day.

#4 UNCLE MOJO – Improving Pletcher trainee ran off to a daylight allowance score on Preakness Day at Pimlico and takes a huge rise in class here. Uncle Mo colt has trained fast and gets go-to pilot John Velazquez.

#5 MATROOH – Longshot has won a pair of races in succession since being claimed, including the Hanshin (G3) at Arlington. Eight-year-old still looks in deep with another hefty class rise.

#6 BACKYARD HEAVEN – Chad Brown runner is the clear one to beat coming off a sterling tally in the Alysheba on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Four-year-old Tizway colt toppled a fine field and might just be scratching the surface.

#7 LOOKIN AT LEE – 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up finally got back in the winner’s circle with an allowance win locally on May 5. Son of Lookin at Lucky sat closer to the pace than usual for Steve Asmussen but will revert to his rallying ways in the Foster. 

#8 IRISH WAR CRY – Enigmatic Grade-2 hero cruised home a facile winner of the Pimlico Special (G3), his first tally in more than 13 months. Graham Motion trainee is unpredictable but can be especially good with his “A” game.

#9 PAVEL – West Coast import has faced top competition since early in his career but has failed to hit the board in five straight. Creative Cause colt draws outside and could peak second time back from Dubai.


The Stephen Foster may have a swift and contested early pace, with four or five likely to be in the thick of it early including Backyard Heaven. But I simply can’t look past the favorite.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic ticket looks to be Backyard Heaven’s to lose. Rapidly improving four-year-old is still lightly raced and proved his affinity for the track in the Alysheba.

I love the four morning drills in the interim, as well as the fact that Irad Ortiz comes to ride.

Pavel and Patch is a pair of stalking types that could benefit from the expected early action. They will be my key runners underneath.


$1 Trifecta part-wheel: 6 with 2,9 with all = $14

$1 Trifecta part-wheel: 6 with all with 2,9 = $14

50-cent Superfecta: 6 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,8,9 with all = $24