Jockey Florent Geroux has won more than 1,100 races in his career, including three victories in the Breeders' Cup, but Saturday's $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE Appliances (Grade I) could kick start a memorable 2017 campaign.
Geroux, 30, has the mount on 4-5 morning line favorite, Gun Runner, in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster for 3-year-olds and up.
“I can't wait for Saturday night,” Geroux said. “The Stephen Foster card is always one of my favorites to ride.”
Gun Runner, who has been ridden by Geroux in his last 11 starts, has been more forwardly placed in the initial stages of his last few starts but his connections aren't worried about the early pace.
“No matter how the race develops he tries his heart out,” Geroux said. “He was beaten in his last start by one of the best horses in the world (Arrogate), so we really can't hold that against him.”
“Flo has a great level of confidence riding him,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He'll do whatever is best for Gun Runner in the race, regardless of who is on the early pace.”
Geroux has three other stakes mounts Saturday: Aquamarine (4-1 on the morning line in the Matt Winn), Big World (6-1, Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador), and Summer Luck (10-1, Regret Presented by Cox's Smokers Outlet).
The Stephen Foster Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weights and morning line odds): Bird Song (Julien Leparoux, 119 pounds, 6-1); Breaking Lucky (Luis Contreras, 117, 8-1); Gun Runner (Geroux, 124, 4-5); Honorable Duty (Javier Castellano, 119, 6-1); Mo Tom (Corey Lanerie, 115, 20-1); Hawaakom (Miguel Mena, 115, 12-1); Texas Chrome (C.J. McMahon, 117, 12-1); and Stanford (John Velazquez, 117, 5-1).
The Stephen Foster Handicap is the centerpiece of an action-packed, prime-time program billed as “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and el Jimador.” The Stephen Foster Handicap is the richest of five graded stakes races on Saturday's special 11-race night racing card that begins at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern). Total purses on the evening are $1.358 million, which makes it the most lucrative racing day for horsemen at Churchill Downs outside of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks programs.
The Stephen Foster Handicap has been carded as Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. NBCSN will televise the race from 8:30-10 p.m. to launch its 2017 “Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In, presented by Lane's End Farm and America's Best Racing” television schedule. Also, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will air live coverage from 8-10 p.m. ET online at www.horseracingradio.net.
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