The $150,000-added Fleur de Lis (GII), $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) and $100,000-added Regret (GIII) highlight the undercard of the 31st running of the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), which is a part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) for the first time.
Royal Delta made her 2012 debut in the Sabin (GIII) at Gulfstream Park in February and finished second to Awesome Maria. Trainer Bill Mott, who won the Fleur de Lis with Escena in 1998, sent Royal Delta to Dubai off that performance for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI). After a troubled trip, Royal Delta finished ninth of 13.
She returned to Mott’s barn at Belmont Park shortly after her disappointing finish in Dubai and resumed training. Benjamin Leon of Besilu Stables and Mott picked the Fleur de Lis as the next spot for Royal Delta and she arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday. She will carry the top weight of 123 pounds Saturday night when she breaks from post five under Mike Smith. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has made Royal Delta the heavy morning-line favorite at 4-5.
The 37th running of the Fleur de Lis for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs returns in 2012 after being put on hiatus in 2011. The 2010 Fleur de Lis was won by Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s Rachel Alexandra, who was honored as Horse of the Year the year prior at the completion of her 3-year-old season.
Royal Delta’s main rival could be Dede McGehee’s St. John’s River, the next high weight at 118 pounds. St. John’s River has a pair of very notable runner-up performances in her two starts on the main track at Churchill Downs. A 4-year-old bay daughter of Include, St. John’s River finished second to Plum Pretty in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) last year and, in her most recent start, she was second behind Juanita in the La Troienne Presented by Steelcase and ORI (GII) on this year’s Kentucky Oaks Day undercard. Rosie Napravnik was aboard for both of those races and will have the mount Saturday night when St. John’s River breaks from the rail.
St. John’s River is trained by Andy Leggio Jr., who is seeking his second victory in the Fleur de Lis. He saddled Happy Ticket to win the event in 2006. Tom Amoss, trainer of Sterling Madame, is also looking for a second Fleur de Lis win. He saddled Heritage of Gold for her Fleur de Lis victory in 2000.
The Fleur de Lis is scheduled to be run as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The field for the Fleur de Lis, from the rail out, is as follows: St. John’s River (ridden by Rosie Napravnik, weighted at 118 pounds, 3-1 morning-line odds), Sterling Madame (Leandro Goncalves, 115, 8-1), Afleeting Lady (Corey Lanerie, 116, 4-1), Distorted Love (Miguel Mena, 114, 15-1), Royal Delta (Mike Smith, 123, 4-5) and It’s Tea Time (Javier Castellano, 115, 10-1).
Augustin Stable’s Coup, winner of the Hilltop at Pimlico in her most recent start, tops a competitive field of 11 3-year-old fillies entered for Saturday’s 43rd running of the Regret at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs.
The Regret, named in honor of filly who in 1915 became the first of only three members of her gender to win the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled as Race 6 with a post time of 8:30 p.m.
Coup, the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Regret, made her career debut last fall at Keeneland and things didn’t exactly go smoothly. She crossed the line second, but was disqualified and placed 10th for causing interference in the stretch. After disappointing as the odds-on choice in her 2-year-old finale, Coup rebounded to break her maiden for trainer Graham Motion in the slop in a one-mile race that was originally scheduled for the turf at Gulfstream Park. She then improved her 2012 record to a perfect 2-for-2 in the Hilltop as the 3-2 choice under John Velazquez, who will be aboard when the filly breaks from post seven Saturday night.
Coup’s main rivals in the Regret could the G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust 2008 homebred Centre Court, Skara Glen Stable, William S. Farish and ENL Stables’ Colonial Flag and Hurstland Farm Inc. and James H. Greene Jr.’s homebred Heart of Destiny.
The Rusty Arnold-trained Centre Court, the morning-line co-second choice at 7-2, just missed in her first try over the turf at Gulfstream Park in March. After finishing second as the 3-5 favorite on the turf at Keeneland, Centre Court finally got the job done in a 1 1/8-mile maiden special on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course on May 19. Jockey Corey Lanerie was aboard for the 4 ¾-length victory, but he will ride Dame Marie on Saturday and Javier Castellano picks up the mount on Centre Court, who will break from post two.
Colonial Flag, the 7-2 co-second choice on the morning line, has made all three of her career starts on the turf. Trained by Michael Matz, Colonial Flag finished fifth in her debut on the turf at Gulfstream Park, but rebounded to break her maiden at Keeneland over Centre Court. In her most recent start, she did not disappoint as the 3-2 favorite on the turf at Belmont Park and won by 1 ¾ lengths under Julien Leparoux, who will be aboard Saturday when she breaks from post three in the Regret. Leparoux previously won the Regret in 2006 and 2008 and will attempt to join Julio Espinoza and Jim McKnight as the only three-time winning riders of the race.
Heart of Destiny’s lone win came on the turf at Saratoga during her 2-year-old season, but her career is highlighted by a runner-up effort to Stephanie’s Kitten in the 2011 Darley Alcibiades (GI) on the Polytrack at Keeneland. In her most recent start, she finished second as the 8-5 favorite to Silver Hustler in a 1 1/8 mile allowance on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Trained by Jimmy Baker, Heart of Destiny will have the chance to even the score with Silver Hustler on Saturday when she breaks from post 10 under Shaun Bridgmohan. The Grant Forster-trained Silver Hustler will break from post five under Corey Nakatani.
Glen Hill Farm’s Left a Message will attempt to give trainer Tom Proctor his third win in the Regret. Bill Mott is the only trainer with three Regret victories to his name. Left a Message enters the Regret off back-to-back turf wins and will break from post nine under Shane Sellers, who won the Regret in 1999 with Nani Rose. Left a Message is 8-1 on the morning line.
The field for the Regret, from the rail out, is as follows: Singn on Themoon (ridden by Gabriel Saez, 20-1 morning-line odds), Centre Court (Javier Castellano, 7-2), Colonial Flag (Julien Leparoux, 7-2), Treasured Up (Rosie Napravnik, 10-1), Silver Hustler (Corey Nakatani, 20-1), Zapper Belle (Channing Hill, 20-1), Coup (John Velazquez, 3-1), Dame Marie (Corey Lanerie, 10-1), Left a Message (Shane Sellers, 8-1), Heart of Destiny (Shaun Bridgmohan, 12-1) and Funny Proposition (Miguel Mena, 8-1).
Casner Racing Stable and Sam Pollock Jr.’s Right to Vote, runner-up to Mark Valeski in the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park in his most recent start, leads a field of five entered for Saturday’s 15th running of the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.
The Matt Winn, which is scheduled as Race 5 at 7:57 p.m., is named in honor of the famed Churchill Downs President Col. Matt Winn, who served as the driving force in the development of the historic Louisville track and his beloved Kentucky Derby.
Right to Vote flashed talent during his 2-year-old campaign and finished third behind Union Rags and Alpha in the Champagne (GI) at Belmont Park. The Champagne would be the final start of his juvenile season. A dark bay or brown gelding by Political Force, Right to Vote won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in March in his return to the races. In his second and most recent start this year, Right to Vote held a lead in the stretch of the Peter Pan, but was run down by Mark Valeski.
A lightly raced horse for trainer Eoin Harty, Right to Vote has never been off the board in his five career starts. He will seek his first stakes victory in the Matt Winn when he breaks from post three as the 5-2 morning-line favorite under Javier Castellano.
John Oxley’s Stealcase is the co-second choice on the morning line at 3-1. After off-the-board finishes in the Gotham (GIII) and Vinery Racing Spiral (GIII), Stealcase finished third behind Hierro and Paynter in The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII) at Churchill Downs. He returned from that solid effort to win a one-mile allowance beneath the Twin Spires by a widening four lengths under Shaun Bridgmohan, who will be aboard the colt when he breaks from post two Saturday.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has two shots to join trainer Bob Baffert as the only three-time winners of the Matt Winn. Jerry Durant’s Macho Macho, a two-length winner of a seven-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard, will break from the rail under Julien Leparoux, who won the Matt Winn aboard Successful Dan in 2009. Richard Davis’ Master Rick, winner of the Northern Spur at Oaklawn Park prior to finishing ninth of 10 in the Peter Pan, will break from post five under Corey Nakatani.
A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s homebred Neck ’n Neck is the other starter and enters the Matt Winn off an impressive 6 ½-length victory in an allowance at Churchill Downs on May 10. Trained by Ian Wilkes, Neck ’n Neck will be ridden by Leandro Goncalves and will break from post four.
The field for the Matt Winn, from the rail out, is as follows: Mach Macho (ridden by Julien Leparoux, 7-2 morning-line odds), Stealcase (Shaun Bridgmohan, 3-1), Right to Vote (Javier Castellano, 5-2), Neck ’n Neck (Leandro Goncalves, 7-2) and Master Rick (Corey Nakatani, 3-1).
Churchill Downs has added additional Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagers to its betting menu for Saturday’s star-studded Stephen Foster Handicap “Downs After Dark” racing program. There will be four Pick 4 wagers that evening and the second is an all-stakes Pick 4 that concludes with the Grade I Foster. All Pick 4 wagers at Churchill Downs are 50-cent minimum bets and the Foster Night Pick 4 wagers will begin in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th races. The program will feature a pair of Pick 5 bets, both 50-cent minimum wagers. The first begins in the 4th race, includes all four stakes events and will conclude with the Foster. The regular Pick 5 will cover races 7-11.