Stephen Foster Day Plays

Profile Picture: James Scully

June 16th, 2018

The $500,000 Stephen Foster H. (G1) tops a strong 11-race card and Backyard Heaven will be looking to establish himself as the leading older horse in training with a fourth consecutive victory. A total of five graded stakes will be offered at Churchill Downs, which plays hosts to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, and last year’s Downs After Dark program featured wins from Gun Runner and Forever Unbridled, who went on to capture the Classic (G1) and Distaff (G1) at Del Mar.

Justify will be another highlight as the Triple Crown winner will make an appearance in the paddock before Race 3 and parade for fans on the racetrack.

Post time for the 1st race is 6 p.m. (ET).

Here are some opinions on the evening:

Race 3

#4 Own Agenda finished fourth in a salty maiden special weight when making his lone appearance last year at Churchill Downs and exits a good second in his 2018 opener, a maiden special weight at Keeneland. The winner of that event, Home Base, came back to record a sharp allowance win and is my top choice in the Matt Winn (G3) and the third-placer, Rugbyman, came back to break his maiden by 14 ½ lengths and exits a runner-up in the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Own Agenda didn’t have the best of trips last time before offering a stout finish and appears to be working forwardly since under the Twin Spires for Bill Mott. Look for him to graduate against a solid cast of maiden special weight foes.

Race 4

One-mile turf maiden is up for grabs and I like a filly with plenty of upside at a price. #3 Flout, who is listed at 12-1, got off to a rough start but passed horses to finish a respectable fourth in an April maiden at Keeneland sprinting on the main track. The top two from the key race came back to crush foes in their next outings and Flout should appreciate the switch to turf and added ground tonight. Out of an El Prado mare, she is by Speightstown, an underrated 14% turf sire, and is a half-brother to Rever de Vous, who is stakes-placed on turf at Santa Anita. $275,000 yearling purchase keeps Declan Cannon, who is hitting at a whopping 18% clip on turf this year and has pocketed four of his seven wins this meet on turf, and Flout is eligible to show more pace in a race lacking speed.

Race 7

I love playing horses stepping up to the right level with improving form and #6 Awestruck fits the bill in the Fleur de Lis (G2). Listed at 8-1, the 4-year-old Tapit filly exits a sensational allowance tally over the track and will make her third start off the layoff for Rusty Arnold, who is winning at a 35% rate this meet. Awestruck brings increasing BRIS Speed and Pace numbers as well and has the tactical speed to sit just behind the early leaders before offering her best. She has the potential to be a major player in the distaff division with expected further improvement.

Race 8

Backyard Heaven is the most likely winner in the Stephen Foster but I will include #7 Lookin at Lee in multi-race wagers and play a healthy exacta box with the favorite. He went off form last year following a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, and needed a couple of starts to get things turned around this season, but Lookin at Lee improved with a fifth in the Oaklawn H (G2) two back and exits a superb allowance tally on the Kentucky Derby undercard, winning by 2 ¼ lengths with seemingly more in reserve. This is his favorite track and Lookin at Lee looks poised to keep showing more for Steve Asmussen at age 4.

Race 9

#1 Heavenly Love began the year on the Kentucky Oaks trail but is now being pointed toward turf stakes. A sharp grassy maiden winner last year, the Grade 1-winning filly experienced a rough trip but offered a solid finish in the Appalachian (G3) last time and the regally-bred daughter of Malibu Moon is eligible to show much more in her second attempt back on the sod. I like the inside draw and trainer Mark Casse has been on fire of late. She’s listed at 5-1 in a nice field of 13.

Good luck on the Downs After Dark card!