After a fantastic night of racing beneath the Twin Spires, the equine stars of Stephen Foster Handicap Night at Churchill Downs were reported by their connections to be in good order.
With one of the top performances of the year, Janis Whitham's homebred Fort Larned scored a 6 ¼-length victory in the $536,300 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) and trainer Ian Wilkes said he came out of the race well.
“He looks good this morning,” Wilkes said. “I'm very proud of him. It was what we were hoping to see.”
Wilkes said Fort Larned now will be pointed to the Whitney Handicap (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 3.
“The Whitney will be next and we'll just take it one race at a time,” Wilkes said. “The ultimate goal is getting back to the Breeders' Cup Classic (GI).”
Fort Larned was followed in order by Golden Ticket, Ron the Greek, Successful Dan, Pool Play and Take Charge Indy.
“We're thrilled with how Golden Ticket ran,” said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. “There's no shame in running behind the Breeders' Cup Classic winner. Golden Ticket gives you everything he has every time and he proved he's a classy horse. We don't have any plans for his next race yet.”
Speaking by telephone from his barn at Belmont Park on Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the all-time leader in wins (672) and stakes victories (87) at Churchill Downs, said Ron the Greek was “fine” after finishing third in the Stephen Foster.
“Everything's fine,” Mott said. “The Whitney is a possibility for Ron the Greek.”
Ron the Greek will remain at Churchill Downs for another couple of days before vanning to New York on Tuesday.
Successful Dan returned to trainer Charlie LoPresti's barn at Keeneland on Saturday night following his fourth-place finish in the Stephen Foster.
“He looks to be fine,” LoPresti said. “Julien said he was bobbling the whole way and couldn't get ahold of the racetrack. Hats off to Fort Larned, though. I don't think there's a horse in the country that could have beaten him last night.
“I'm just going to see how (Successful Dan) comes out of it and give him a few days before we decide what to do.”
Pool Play raced in last in the field of six throughout most of the race and eventually finished fifth.
“He came out of it fine,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father Mark. “He was just too far back. We don't have any plans for him yet.”
Rounding out the field of six was Take Charge Indy, who was the 9-5 favorite.
“He appears to have come back good,” trainer Pat Byrne said. “No one was going to beat the winner. We tip our hats to Fort Larned. We'll discuss a plan with Mr. Sandford and Elliott Walden of WinStar and figure out what's best for him. We're not in any hurry to run him back.”
Funny Proposition, Code West and Kitten's Dumplings also shined bright on the Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Findlandia Vodka racing program that attracted 23,509 fans to Churchill Downs and evening event record $8,390,130 in wagers (up 5.4% from 2012's previous mark of $7,960,789).
John Oxley's Funny Proposition took an early lead in the Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII) and then kicked away in the stretch to upset two-time champion Royal Delta, who finished second as the 1-5 favorite.
“She looks great,” Casse said. “I'm very happy with how she looks this morning. I had confidence in her last night, but we were running against Royal Delta, so we had our reservations. We're going to enjoy this moment before we come up with a plan.”
Royal Delta exited her runner-up effort “fine,” according to Mott.
“I have no excuses,” Mott said. “I suppose the Delaware Handicap (GI on July 20) might be next for Royal Delta.”
Royal Delta also will remain at Churchill Downs until Tuesday when she departs with stablemate Ron the Greek.
Gary and Mary West's Code West defeated Uncaptured by a head in the Matt Winn (GIII). Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Code West is scheduled to fly back to Southern California on Monday morning.
Uncaptured, 2012 Canadian Horse of the Year, exited his runner-up performance “very well,” according to Casse.
“He looks like he's back in top form,” Casse said. “He'll be an exciting horse to have the rest of the year. We've got a couple of options for him. He's a Canadian-bred, so we could go to the Prince of Wales (at Fort Erie on July 30). We'll also look at the West Virginia Derby (at Mountaineer on Aug. 3) and the Haskell (at Monmouth Park on July 28).”
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Kitten's Dumplings notched an easy victory in the Regret (GIII) and came out of the race in good order, according to trainer Mike Maker.
No plans have been made for her next start; however, Maker mentioned a possible long-term goal being the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.
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