Stephen Foster Stakes 2020 betting preview


Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs is the first North American Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” prep race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic this November, and brings together several of the best older dirt horses in training for what shapes up to be a competitive and exciting race.

NBC Sports will broadcast theStephen Foster as part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In” schedule. Watch the Fleur de Lis Stakes and the Stephen Foster Stakes from Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 27 from 5 to 6 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

The Stephen Foster winner receives an automatic spot in the starting gate for the $7 million Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7, and the race has been very important in influencing the World Championships through the years. Five horses that won the Stephen Foster trained on to capture the Classic later in the fall: Black Tie Affair (1991); Awesome Again (1998); Saint Liam (2005); Blame (2010); and Gun Runner (2017).


Racetrack: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Date: June 27

Purse: $500,000

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Race: 10

Post Time: 5:50 p.m. ET

Notable winners: Black Tie Affair (1991), Awesome Again (1998), Victory Gallop (1999), Street Cry (2002), Perfect Drift (2003), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008), Blame (2010), Fort Larned (2013), Gun Runner (2017)

First held: 1982

Tom’s d’Etat, winner of the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs last fall, and By My Standards, recent winner of the Oaklawn Handicap, headline an eight-horse field for the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster. The race will be broadcast live along with the Fleur de Lis Stakes on NBC, and has a scheduled post time of 5:50 p.m. ET.

Read on for more information about the starters for Saturday’s 39th Stephen Foster Stakes.

1. FearlessHe’s showing signs of fulfilling high expectations that have been there since he started racing in December 2019. Comes into the Stephen Foster off of a rallying win in a slowly run allowance-optional claimer at Churchill on May 30. Will need to step up his game against a far tougher group and third or fourth appears to be his ceiling.

JOCKEY: John VelazquezTRAINER: Todd Pletcher


2. Pirate’s PunchThe probable pacesetter gets “Big Money Mike” to ride and is a tough-as-nails type that has been in excellent form since last summer. But he’s stepping up in class big-time and has never raced at this distance. Could hang around into midstretch but it’s hard to see him winning.

JOCKEY: Mike SmithTRAINER: Grant Forster


3. AlkhaatamHe entered last year’s Stephen Foster as an intriguing longshot choice off of two straight wins but was overmatched and finished 11th. This year, he arrives in good form again, having won two of his last three including a solid win going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill on June 7. But he’s not shown the ability to hang with the top horses here.

JOCKEY: Declan CannonTRAINER: Daniel Peitz


4. MultiplierThis veteran has found a home racing in California, punching in triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures in all five of his starts out West this year, two of them on turf. He nearly won the 1 ¼-mile, Grade 1 Big ’Cap out there, too, losing by a neck. That field was not as impressive as the one he’ll face Saturday, but he’s a wild card in the Foster and could hit the board.

JOCKEY: Tyler GaffalioneTRAINER: Peter Miller


5. Tom’s d’EtatPatiently handled by Al Stall, this 7-year-old has risen to near the top of the handicap division over the past year, winning four of his last six including the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill last fall and his 2020 debut in the Oaklawn Mile in April. He finished a good third in last year’s Stephen Foster after setting a pressured pace but has run better since then when stalking, and that should be the strategy in this year’s renewal. The one to beat.

JOCKEY: Miguel MenaTRAINER: Al Stall Jr.


6. By My StandardsComes into the Stephen Foster 3-for-3 this year (two of them Grade 2 stakes), drawing clear in the stretch with authority in each start. He is also 3-for-3 in his career at this 1 1/8-mile distance. The only poor start in his career was last year’s Kentucky Derby in which he endured a brutal trip. A major threat.

JOCKEY: Gabriel SaezTRAINER: Bret Calhoun


7. Silver DustThe other Bret Calhoun runner in Saturday’s Stephen Foster is a multiple graded stakes winner and the epitome of a professional, consistent racehorse who rarely fails to give a good effort. He’s had trouble closing out races in deep stretch, though, which makes him a logical choice to fill out exactas and trifectas but less so as a win candidate.

JOCKEY: Adam BeschizzaTRAINER: Bret Calhoun


8. OwendaleRunner-up to Tom’s d’Etat in last fall’s Clark Handicap, he made a sharp comeback in the Blame Stakes at Churchill last month, winning the one-turn mile race with a late rally. He comes from well back  and therefore will need a hot pace and a good trip in the Foster, but Owendale has paired well with Florent Geroux over the past year-plus and is a must use in all exotic tickets.

JOCKEY: Florent GerouxTRAINER: Brad Cox


THE PICK: Tom’s d’Etat

THE LONGSHOT: Multiplier



Watch the Fleur de Lis Stakes and the Stephen Foster Stakes from Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 27 from 5 to 6 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.