Following an exhilarating night of first-class racing Saturday under the Twin Spires, the equine stars of Stephen Foster Handicap Night at Churchill Downs were reported by their connections to be in good order.
In one of the most impressive performances of the year, Randy Patterson's Moonshine Mullin scored a 1 ¾-length victory in the $552,500 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) and trainer Randy Morse said he came out of the race well.
“He came out great, really great,” Morse said. “We're just going to let this win sink in and we'll see what happens next.”
Morse did mention he would probably take a string of horses back to Saratoga upon the completion of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, but did not say if Moonshine Mullin was pointed to a specific race.
The two Grade I events for handicap horses this summer at Saratoga are the Aug. 2 Whitney Invitational Handicap and Aug. 30 Woodward, both run at 1 1/8 miles.
Moonshine Mullin was followed in order by Will Take Charge, Departing, Mylute, Golden Ticket, Revolutionary, Long River, Prayer for Relief and Jaguar Paw.
“He came out of the race fine,” Will Take Charge conditioner D. Wayne Lukas said. “We'll take a very serious look at the Whitney. This horse has an affinity for the Saratoga track.”
“Departing is fine,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “We were pleased with his effort and we will talk to the owners to see what's in store next.”
Molly Morgan, Tapiture and Aurelia's Belle also captured graded stakes wins on the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” racing program that attracted a crowd of 21,671.
Bill Cubbedge's Molly Morgan took the $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), starting the race in last of six through the first half-mile, while Ondine got out to an early lead. Molly Morgan passed Flashy American to get to fifth after six furlongs and gained ground by slipping through along the rail around the stretch to take the lead, and drew clear by four lengths at the wire with jockey Corey Lanerie at the reigns.
“We were very pleased with her effort and her trip last night,” Molly Morgan's trainer Dale Romans said. “This opens the door to some interesting options for her in the future; I can't say for sure what those might be yet, but she came out great.”
After finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred Tapiture bounced back to take the $109,400 Matt Winn (GIII) by two lengths for trainer Steve Asmussen.
“He was pretty impressive last night,” Asmussen said. “But he came out of the race fine and everything is good here. The Aug. 2 West Virginia Derby (GII) is a possibility for where we might take him next.”
With a rough trip in the final stages of the $111,900 Regret (GIII), James F. Miller's Aurelia's Belle was placed first by a disqualification of A Little Bit Sassy for trainer Wayne Catalano. A Little Bit Sassy was disqualified from first and placed fourth for veering out and impeding Kiss Moon and Aurelia's Belle.
“She's a very nice horse,” Catalano's assistant Miguel Hernandez said. “She walked this morning and is sound; everything's good.”
Following last night's race, Catalano was unsure what the next start for Aurelia's Belle would be but that he would most likely keep her on the turf.
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