Charles Fipke's homebred Seeking the Soul was the surprise winner of the 2017 G1 Clark Handicap at nearly 8-1 odds, but 18 months later the 6-year-old son of Perfect Soul did it again beneath the Twin Spires as the 9-2 co-second choice. In this Saturday's edition of the G2 Stephen Foster Handicap, Seeking the Soul came from off the pace under John Velazquez to hit the wire a neck ahead of 13-1 chance Quip and earn an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic. Trained by Dallas Stewart, the intact horse completed 1 1/8 miles over Churchill Downs' fast main track in 1:49.27.
“We will definitely be in the Breeders' Cup Classic this year,” Stewart said. “This horse is so special to our entire barn. We have to thank Mr. Fipke for allowing us to train him. With family and friends here tonight, this is as good as it gets – we're in the Classic.”
Quip finished second, while Tom's d'Etat was third and 2-1 favorite Gift Box was fourth.
Tom's d'Etat and Quip were both quick out of the starting gate, and the pair made their way over to the rail heading into the clubhouse turn to vie for the lead. Trading places twice down the backstretch, Tom's d'Etat and Quip set fractions of :24.60 and :49.43. Thirstforlife had a cozy spot along the rail in third, while Runaway Ghost was keeping them company from fourth. Gift Box was hung wide in fifth while Seeking the Soul kept pace with the top grouping in sixth in the early going.
“As soon as I broke out there and got into the first turn, he was a little more aggressive than I want him to be,” Velazquez said. “He's never been that close in the first part of the race. But I got him back to where I wanted him to be, got comfortable where he was, and then down the stretch, pulling out, he had it.”
Rounding the far turn, Quip once again took over from a very game Tom's d'Etat and dug in heading toward the wire. Seeking the Soul was making up ground from mid-pack via an inside trip, and Yoshida was also closing from second-last of the 12-horse field.
In mid-stretch, Seeking the Soul challenged Quip and that pair pulled away from Tom's d'Etat. Quip was all-out to try to fend off the winner, but Seeking the Soul had the momentum advantage and pulled away to win by a neck. Quip had to settle for second, while Tom's d'Etat finished third ahead of favorite Gift Box. Thirstforlife was fifth, and Yoshida finished sixth.
Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Seeking the Soul is a second-generation homebred out of the Seeking the Gold mare Seeking the Title, with a female line tracing back to the blue hen mare Personal Ensign. The horse has really stepped up since his 4-year-old season, from his first G1 win in the 2017 Clark to placings in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, the 2018 Clark, and the 2019 Pegasus World Cup. Overall, his record stands at 7-6-7 from 27 starts for earnings of over $3.3 million.
“He ran really well here the last time out, and we knew coming from Dubai he probably wasn't going to be 100 percent,” Velazquez explained. “He had the perfect timing to win that race (Grade II Alysheba, May 3, where he finished third), just like this one. Today he was right back to where he normally is, high energy.”
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