The Grade I, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap is the headliner on a special Saturday night card at Churchill Downs. Eight runners will step into the gate at approximately 9:43 p.m. EST for the program’s eighth of the evening. They’ll go 1 1/8-miles on Churchill’s main oval. GUN RUNNER (4-5, morning-line favorite) is the highweight and expected post-time favorite, though contention runs deep behind him. This is one of many important races counting toward FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game; be sure to participate!
#3 GUN RUNNER exits a game runner-up effort to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup back in March. He’s been training well for Steve Asmussen since returning to the states over a Churchill course that was the site for his biggest career victory, the Grade I Clark Handicap. The Stephen Foster is the same distance as the Clark, but that does not guarantee GUN RUNNER and Florent Geroux will enjoy similar results.
GUN RUNNER is likely to be pressed early by #1 BIRD SONG and possibly #8 STANFORD. If they go too fast early, that could set the table for an upset.
#4 HONORABLE DUTY (6-1) can pick up the pieces under Javier Castellano in this one. He gets a significant upgrade in the saddle and what looks like his preferred course and distance. He’s gone 2-1-0 in four career starts at Churchill and won the 1 1/8-mile New Orleans at the Fair Grounds earlier this year. HONORABLE DUTY has three wins in four tries this year, with his lone loss coming to BIRD SONG in the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba in the slop. Finally, trainer Brendan Walsh has had phenomenal success at Churchill this meet (31-12-6-2).
BIRD SONG (6-1) has hit the board in six straight but his performance in the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali two starts back was discouraging. However, he loves Churchill (4-3-0-0 record), so perhaps that will help him handle the distance better. Julien Leparoux has the call.
The play: $3 exacta 3,4/1,3,4, $2 exacta box 3/4, $4 win 4 ($20)
DFJ analysis: Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux unsurprisingly have a series of strong mounts lined up at their regular track. Leparoux rides in 10 of the 11 races on the card, with Stephen Foster contender BIRD SONG being the headliner. He also rides four horses at 4-1 or below in odds.
Geroux rides in eight races and has the call on heavy Foster favorite GUN RUNNER. Four of his other mounts are single-digit odds.
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