Churchill Downs Picks & Graded Stakes Analysis for Saturday June 26: Stephen Foster Day

Churchill Downs began its Spring/Summer Meet back in April, and little did we know what was in-store. Now, on Stephen Foster Day, which closes things out, we have you covered with all our picks and analysis ... See below ...
Churchill Downs began its Spring/Summer Meet back in April, and little did we know what was in-store. Now, on Stephen Foster Day, which closes things out, we have you covered with all our picks and analysis ... See below ...

As the weekend is in full-swing, a solid 12-race card on Saturday at Churchill Downs closes out the Spring/Summer Meet. It is Stephen Foster Day! As usual, our turf-man has you covered with picks for every race, as well as analysis of his best value plays throughout the day, as he examines the "Graded Stakes" contests on tap.

If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Saturday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.

Horse Racing Picks

Race 5: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Fleur de Lis S. (G2), $300k, F&M 4+

The 2 strongest runners entered on this Stephen Foster Day card are easily Maxfield, who runs later in the “Feature,” and the lady that is drawn in here, Fausto Gutierrez’s powerful Letruska #6. The long and the shorty of it is that she is going to be very difficult to beat. Her speed seems to be resolute throughout races, and she just keeps getting better and better. She can go to the lead and hold it, but she can also duel down the stretch when need be.

I was a little surprised when I heard she was going to show for this race because it seemed like her trainer would give her a break, planning to make a run possibly at the BC Distaff (G1) at Del Mar in November. But Gutierrez knows his stuff, and what she can handle. She is big and strong. If you stand next to the paddock exit gate like I did at SHRP when she went by on her way to run in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), you will find her literally dragging her handler along. I don’t doubt she could easily win this race, especially considering the rest of the field of 5 looks like a bunch of “B Team” benchwarmers.

The only one I might consider up to snuff is Kenny McPeek’s Envoutante #4, who appears to have some class in her background that could serve. Still, she was in the Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn, and was no factor when Cox’s Shedaresthedevil bested Gutierrez’s prize. That race though showed what amounts to this heavy favorite’s only real weakness … the threat of an upfront or loose on-the-lead tactic. If you want to win a race like this one, you will need to break well, getting on the engine as quickly as possible. Bullying your way forward, the way Florent Geroux did in the Azeri is the only way. If you don’t … it’s game, set, and match to this 5-yr-old mare out of Super Saver. Gutierrez and his team win again …  

Wagering Recommendation: $100 Win, #6


Race 9: Dirt, 6F, Bashford Manor S. (G3), $150k, 2

Trainer Steve Asmussen has won this race a record 6x, and once again comes to plunder more booty for his pirate hoard. Amid all this drama, there is a full-field of young colts, and that begs the question … do you think any of these could be on the track less than a year from now in the KYD148? Hmm …

As for Asmussen’s pair, he sends Vodka N Water #1 and Red Run #9 to the post. The former is a Fed Biz off-spring, and we have seen this sire produce some nice sprinters of late. It is rather amazing that this colt already has a couple of races @CD under his belt. Both were 2nds with Ricardo Santana at the controls. The last in particular, was against Norm Casse’s Glacial #4, who is back to rival him once again. Based on those finishes, “Vodka” clearly deserves some consideration in this spot.

As for the latter Asmussen entry, this is the colt where Santana lands. That must mean something … right? Tea leaves … please … A son of Gun Runner, I am sure the HOF conditioner recognizes some traits in this one’s budding running style. The young one has much to live up to, and Winchell is licking their chops for more “Graded” glory. Breaking one’s maiden on debut is a pretty special thing. The “P.S.” to that last comment is to consider Dallas Stewart’s Lansdowne #2, who did just that on debut at Churchill back on 22 May. The willy conditioner keeps bettors guessing, as vet Jon Court gets the call. I think Asmussen’s charges are certainly full of possibilities, as are Casse’s and Stewart’s, but others that are drawn in here might bring even more value. Looking at some of the overall race stats, there is a precedent for winners to come from horses with odds in excess of 5/1. Don’t sleep on these types!

Speaking of those headed towards the boxcar variety, what about the Chapman Barn’s Rising Outlaw #10? Most will shy away from this one because they will not think that the trip he made up to Indiana Grand in an MC35k event was not special, but I think it showed promise. Posting an 80 speed fig was solid, and when you are out of Bodemeister, you have some legs. This one is a driver, and with the addition of Rafael Bejarano, the colt could be a fabulous price at more than 30/1. I would do more than just use this one, as a graduated wager seems in order.

Remember … precedent …

Wagering Recommendation: $100 Bankroll, Graduated Wager, WPS #10 ($10-W, $15-P, $75-S)


Race 10: Turf, 1 1/16th, Wise Dan S. (G2), $300k, 4+

When you are entered in a race named after Wise Dan there is a certain je ne sais quoi that follows. At least, there should be … He was a complete router for Charlie LoPresti, and anyone that follows in his footsteps is replicating greatness. This year’s edition of what used to be the Firecracker S. has a nice group of turf routers drawn in. There are many ways you can go … so the ‘cappers say, but for me, this is an easy ask.

Cox’s Set Piece #1 and Maker’s Somelikeitbrown #3 will take significant money to be sure, but I like Mark Casse’s 6-yr-old out of Candy Ride (ARG), the able-bodied turfer, Ride a Comet #7. He is classy, after a nice set of efforts throughout the spring. You may scratch your head at that last statement … granted. But remember, experience is experience, even if some of those tries were 7th and 9th place finishes. Consider the company he was keeping … names like Smooth Like Strait, Raging Bull, Count Again, Sacred Lite, Colonel Liam, and Domestic Spending … all come to mind as major turf players across divisional distances.

The Wise D. route is the perfect set up, and I like the choice of jockey Tyler Gaffalione once again. The 3rd time may be the charm, as this runner is fit as can be. HOF-er Casse has him primed for a “G” score. By the way, as for those “tote leaders” from the Cox and Maker outfits, I am not so sure they are as sharp as one might think. One is an untrustworthy class climber, while the other was in a weaker edition of a G2 contest last out at Pimlico. Do not be snookered, best bettors …

Wagering Recommendation: $25/$50 WP, #7


Race 11: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Stephen Foster S. (G2), $600k, 4+

As my colleague, Editor Neil, put it so succinctly when he previewed this race a few days ago … Brendan Walsh’s Maxfield #8 will be the star of the Stephen Foster show. He is the best-bred, the fastest, and has the most-accomplished resume in this field of 9. In short, he should trounce this lot. Godolphin expects “great things” ala Harry Potter from this 4-yr-old colt, and I am sure they are expecting the royal blue colors to come surging down the stretch at Churchill like lightning across a forehead. Out of Street Sense, though he missed in the celebrated Santa Anita Handicap (G1) back in early March, he rebounded in the Alysheba (G2) in fine just off-the-pace fashion on the KYOaks undercard. Now, he seems poised to take this G2 contest. Can anyone rival his power and late speed? I cannot find one. There is a reason this one is firmly planted in most of the Top NTRA Thoroughbred Polls out there. Max wins … garnering an all-expense-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup! “Win and You’re In,” is coming …

Wagering Recommendation: $100 Win, #8


Enjoy the final day of Churchill’s 2021 Spring/Summer Meet! It is Closing Day …

Horse Racing Results