Triple Crown racing season ended last Saturday with Creator’s victory, but racing action continues this Saturday with the running of the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
The entire race betting card at Churchill this Saturday is filled with some major graded stakes events and I have dialed-in on the list of contenders in this year’s Stephen Foster to come up with my top exact bet for the main event of the day.
Stephen Foster Handicap- Churchill Downs
The Stephen Foster Handicap is a Grade 1 stakes race for four-year old thoroughbreds and older with a total prize purse of $500,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Churchill over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
It should be a fairly strong field of nine contenders for Saturday’s race led by six horses currently ranked by Horse Racing Nation. The horse at the top of my list to win is International Star. This four-year old New York-bred colt has been one of my favorites going back to his victory last year in the Grade 1 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. He missed the entire Triple Crown racing season, but started his four-year old campaign on a strong note with a victory in ungraded the Louisiana Handicap at that same track on January 16.
Trained by Mike Maker, International Star has placed in the money in six of nine events over the past two years and his HRN rating coming into this race stands at 8.08 odds among several betting sites.
My second free pick in this race would be Effinex following an impressive win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 16 over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. This five-year old New York-bred horse has now placed in the money in his last five events starting with a third-place finish in last October’s Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He also placed third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year over a longer distance of 1 1/4 miles.
His trainer is James Jenkins and he has the highest HRN ranking (18) and rating (8.48) of any of the nine horses listed as probable for Saturday’s race.
Bonus Pick: Wise Dan Stakes- Churchill Downs
One of the more intriguing races on the undercard at Churchill this Saturday is the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes with a total prize purse of $200,000. Open to three-year old thoroughbreds and older, it will be contested on turf over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
A solid field of 10 of the top turf horses in the nation are listed as probable for this year’s Wise Dan Stakes. The clear favorite to win this race in my book would be The Pizza Man with a HRN ranking of 33. Trained by Roger Brueggermann, this veteran seven-year old Illinois-bred gelding is coming off a disappointing fifth-place run in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap in his only previous race this season, but his past track record points to a strong run this time around over a slightly shorter distance. His last big win was in late November of 2015 when he bested the field in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup at an extended distance of 1 1/2 miles.
Over the course of a very successful racing career, The Pizza Man has consistently delivered with finishes in the money in 15 of 20 events including victories in 11 of those races.
The battle for second in this race should be won by trainer Mark Casse’s second entry Conquest Typhoon. This four-year old Canadian-bred colt comes in ranked slightly lower (6.02) than Casse’s other entry Za Approval, who is still not confirmed to run on Saturday. Conquest Typhoon has finished fifth in his last two graded events, but I am looking for a better effort this time out given his past success at a longer distance.
Going back to his juvenile campaign, he has finished in the money in nine of 14 events over the course of his career with his biggest victory coming in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMile Stakes at Del Mar in October of 2014.