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Quick Look: Churchill Downs Closing Day Graded Stakes Preview

Quick Look: Churchill Downs Closing Day Graded Stakes Preview

by Laurie RossJune 22, 2021

Four graded stakes are on tap for Churchill Downs closing day, including the Grade 2 Stephen Foster. Let’s take a quick look at the likely contenders.

Stephen Foster (G2) 1 1/8 miles 4-year-olds and older

The Stephen Foster features a small but stellar field of six. The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event; the victor earns an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Maxfield is the class of the field. The talented colt has won six of seven starts and earned half his victories at Churchill.

Silver Dust won the Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland in his last start. He was third in last year’s Stephen Foster Stakes. The Bret Calhoun trainee seldom wins at Churchill, but he can be counted on to hit the board.

Visitant placed second in the Alysheba Stakes (G2) in his first attempt over Churchill’s main track. He made the pace but was no match for Maxfield and finished 3 1/4-lengths behind that rival.

Fleur de Lis (G2) 1 1/8 miles, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and older

The Fleur de Lis drew six fillies and mares. The winner earns a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The odds-on favorite will be Letruska, the Mexican wonder mare who was last seen in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) soundly defeating Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Shedaresthedevil. Previously, Letruska bested champions Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver and Shedaresthedevil in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).

Vault has won two of her last three starts, including a victory in the Ruffian Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park over an accomplished field. She was third in her only try at Churchill, in the listed Shawnee Stakes last year. This Brad Cox trainee is a nice mare, but not in the league of Letruska.

Spice is Nice has hit the board in five of seven career starts. She won both starts this year, including a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Allaire DuPont Distaff Match Series Stakes (G3) on the Preakness undercard. She’s taking a step up in class and has never raced at Churchill.

Wise Dan (G2) 1 1/16 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and older

The Wise Dan Stakes drew a so-so field of six. The consistent Somelikeithotbrown previously won the Dinner Party Stakes (G2) at Pimlico. He’s competed on the Churchill turf twice; his best finish was third in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The Mike Maker trainee will attempt back-to-back victories, which he last accomplished in 2019.

Ride a Comet could surprise. He has a good/bad cycle, and he placed ninth in the 1 1/8-mile Turf Classic Stakes (G1) on the Kentucky Derby undercard after a wide trip. Previously, he closed for second place in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland. 1 1/6-miles suits the Mark Casse trainee, and he has the class to win this.

Set Piece loves the Churchill turf; he’s won three of four starts here and is going for the hat trick. He won a pair of overnight stakes and is taking a big leap in class.

Bashford Manor (G3) 6 furlongs, 2-year-olds

The Bashford Manor drew 22 nominees, but it is likely only six or seven will enter the starting gate. Most of these 2-year-old colts and geldings have run only once or twice.
Glacial was a promising 2 1/2-length debut winner here last month. He’s a member of Frosted’s first crop and is trained by Norm Case.

Horse of the Year Gun Runner is represented by his first crop. Two of his sons may contest the Bashford Manor, and Steve Asmussen trains both.
Gunite improved his performance in his second start and placed second after a wide trip. The extra distance will suit.

Red Run graduated at first asking by 1 3/4-lengths as the favorite. He traveled five furlongs over a sloppy track in :59.22, which was an excellent time.

Churchill Downs Closing Day Isn’t The Only Race

Other graded stakes races scheduled for this weekend include the Mother Goose Stakes (G2), Ohio Derby (G3), and Chicago Handicap (G3).

The 1 1/16 mile Mother Goose Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park for 3-year-old fillies. Grade 2 winner Clairiere placed fourth in the Kentucky Oaks last out, and she is the likely favorite over three or four other fillies.

The 1 1/8 mile Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown for 3-year-olds drew a strong field.
Lexington Stakes (G3) winner King Fury has another match-up with Proxy, who was fourth in that race. Peter Pan (G3) winner Promise Keeper could have a say in the outcome.

Two colts looking to improve on their last performance are The Reds, who placed second in the Pennie Ridge Stakes (G3), and Sir Barton Stakes runner-up Hozier, who is making his first start for trainer Rodolphe Brisset.

The seven-furlong Chicago Stakes (G3) at Arlington Park for 3-year-olds and older drew a field of nine fillies and mares.

She Cant Sing tries stakes company for the first time after beating allowance class runners here over Memorial Day weekend.

Abby Hatcher was second over Arlington’s turf course against allowance class runners in her last start. She’ll make the switch back to Polytrack after a trio of starts over the lawn. The Anna Meah trainee has won twice in the last year, once at seven furlongs over the all-weather track in Ireland.

Mariafoot (FR) switches back to synthetic tracks after an unsuccessful stint over the lawn. She is a stakes winner at a mile over the all-weather, so she could have a solid shot at the winner’s prize.

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About The Author
Laurie Ross
Laurie is a handicapper, pedigree consultant, and published author. Her work has been featured on numerous prominent racing websites and she is a reoccurring guest on sports radio programs. She is also a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. Her yearly publications contain tremendous insight and value for bettors and horsemen. The Freshmen Sire Guide has received accolades from leading trainers and handicappers and her Triple Crown guides are a best-selling feature.