The 31st running of the Stephen Foster for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track will be run under the lights for the first time as part of the “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
Both Wise Dan and Successful Dan are coming off record-breaking performances. Wise Dan won the Ben Ali (GIII) by 10 ½-lengths on the Polytrack course at Keeneland in track-record time of 1:46.63 for 1 1/8 miles. Successful Dan turned in a record-breaking run of his own a few days later at Churchill Downs when he won the Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GII) on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard by a length in track-record time of 1:41.04 for 1 1/16 miles.
Wise Dan, a 5-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry, has nine wins from 15 starts and earnings of $1,009,601, while Successful Dan has seven victories from 10 starts with $596,608 to his name.
“I don’t know how you separate the two of them,” Lopresti said.
Wise Dan, who won the Clark Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs last fall, and Successful Dan, who was disqualified from first and placed third in the 2010 running of the Clark, both worked at Keeneland last Tuesday. Wise Dan breezed six furlongs on the Polytrack in 1:11.40 and Successful Dan worked five furlongs on the turf in 1:05.
“Wise Dan worked really well and everyone has been pleased with his three works since the Ben Ali,” Lopresti said. “Successful Dan worked OK. I tried him on the turf because I was thinking about running him in the Firecracker (GII on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs on July 1), but after watching him work I don’t think I’ll do that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
If Successful Dan does not run in the Stephen Foster, Lopresti listed the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (GIII) on June 30 and Suburban Handicap (GII) at Belmont Park on July 7 as possible destinations for the 6-year-old gelded son of Successful Appeal.
ROGUE ROMANCE BREEZES FIVE-EIGTHS, WILL POINT TO FOSTER – Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance, a five-length winner of a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 20, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 on the fast main track beneath the Twin Spires on Saturday morning in preparation for the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on June 16.
Working under Marvin Abrego, Rogue Romance recorded fractions of :12, :24.20, :36 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20.
“He worked well this morning and it sets him up well for the Stephen Foster,” trainer Ken McPeek said.
Prior to his allowance win at Churchill Downs, Rogue Romance finished last of seven in the Ben Ali (GIII) to Wise Dan, who he figures to face again in the Stephen Foster.
“His two races on the dirt this year have been exceptional,” McPeek said. “I think you can throw the race on the Polytrack out.”
A 4-year-old son of Smarty Jones, Rogue Romance was a highly-regarded 2-year-old and won the Bourbon (GIII) on turf at Keeneland prior to a third-place run behind champion Uncle Mo and Boys at Tosconova in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) on the main track at Churchill Downs. In his lone start at age 3, Rogue Romance finished third as the 2-1 favorite in the Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds.
“We’ve always felt like he was a top-class horse,” McPeek said. “He had some foot issues come up last year and if that didn’t happen he probably would’ve run in the Triple Crown races.”
Bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm Inc. and Catesby Clay, Rogue Romance has recorded four wins from eight starts and earnings of $396,045.
HANSEN, SASSY IMAGE SPARKLE IN FIVE-FURLONG BULLETS – A pair of Grade I winners turned in sparkling training moves on Saturday morning as Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image worked a bullet five furlongs at Churchill Downs and Dr. Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing LLC’s Hansen zipped through a bullet five-eighths at Churchill’s nearby Trackside Training Center.
Working on the fast main track after the renovation break under Tammy Fox, Sassy Image breezed in :59.40 and recorded fractions of :12, :23, :46.80 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.60. The five-furlong time for the four-time Churchill Downs stakes winner was the fastest of 61 at the distance.
The Dale Romans-trained Sassy Image completed the Pocahontas (GIII)-Golden Rod (GII) double at Churchill Downs at age 2 and won the Humana Distaff (GI) and Winning Colors (GIII) beneath the Twin Spires during her 4-year-old campaign.
In her first start since finishing last of sixth in the Ballerina (GI) at Saratoga last August, Sassy image finished sixth in the Humana Distaff (GI) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard.
No plans have been made for her next start.
Hansen was guided through his work by regular exercise rider Joel Barrientos and covered the five furlongs in 1:00.20 over fast footing on Trackside’s six-furlong training oval. The move by America’s juvenile champion of 2011 was the fastest of 18 at the distance.
“He worked super as always,” trainer Mike Maker said.
A gray/roan son of Tapit, Hansen is scheduled to make his first start since his ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) in the Woody Stephens (GII) on the Belmont Stakes (GI) undercard at Belmont Park on June 9. Maker said the colt would board a plane bound for New York on Wednesday.
BARN TALK – The biggest summer parties in Louisville return to Churchill Downs tonight on Saturday, June 2 at 6 p.m. as the home of the Kentucky Derby welcomes back its wildly-popular nighttime racing series, “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka.
The concept for the 11-race program, that includes a stakes tripleheader, will be Remix, featuring bold colors with a nod to the 1980s. Saturday night’s season premiere will showcase the return of the popular VJ 2nd Nature, who will entertain paddock party-goers from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, and Cincinnati-based cover band Off The Hook, who will play from 4-8:30 p.m.
Admission gates will open at 4 p.m. and the first of 11 live races will begin at 6 p.m. …
Nominations for the four graded stakes races to be run on Stephen Foster Day at Churchill Downs will close Saturday, June 2. The races, which will be run under the lights as part of the “Downs After Dark” racing program on Saturday, June 16, include the 31st running of the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the 37th running of the $150,000-added Fleur de Lis (GII) for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the 43rd running of the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course and the 15th running of the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
WORKTAB – Frank Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly, runner-up to Hungry Island in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by American Commercial Lines (GII), worked five furlongs on the main track at Saturday morning in 1:02.20 for trainer Dale Romans. Tapitsfly recorded fractions of :12.20, :23.80, :49.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.40. She will be scratched out of Saturday’s Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs and is being pointed to the Just A Game (GI) at Belmont Park on June 9. …
Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier’s Battle Hardened, winner of the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay in February, breezed three furlongs on the main track in :37.20 for trainer Eddie Kenneally. The work ranked 18th out of 51 at the distance. It was the first work for the chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway since his sixth-place finish in the March 10 Tampa Bay Derby (GII).