Gift Box should top stacked Stephen Foster

The Grade II, $600,000 Stephen Foster Stakes is the feature race on Saturday night at Churchill Downs. A field of 12 will crowd the gate for this 1 1/8-mile test. The Stephen Foster goes as Race 8 on an 11-race program; estimated post time is 9:47 p.m. ET.

#6 GIFT BOX (3-1, morning-line favorite) gets the nod as he shortens in distance from the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Gold Cup and Santa Anita Handicap. He won the “Big Cap” two starts back over McKinzie but had to settle for second behind Vino Rosso last time out. GIFT BOX has showed marked improvement since moving out west to the John Sadler barn. It remains to be seen how he’ll fare as he ships back east for the Stephen Foster, but the speed figures certainly stamp him as the one to beat. Joel Rosario should have GIFT BOX in the catbird seat just off the pace.

#9 TOM’S D’ETAT (5-1) was last seen running second in the Grade II Alysheba behind McKinzie over this course. He’s started on fast dirt three times since exiting a long layoff and has won twice. TOM’S D’ETAT is 5-2-2-0 at Churchill Downs all-time. Shaun Bridgmohan should have this Al Stall trainee close to the pace as well.

#10 QUIP (10-1) showed promise at three when he won the Tampa Bay Derby and placed in the Arkansas Derby, but something went amiss in the Preakness and he was forced to the sidelines. QUIP was a well-beaten third in his comeback outing, Gulfstream’s Hal’s Hope, but he returned a winner in his next and most recent start, the Oaklawn Handicap. He earned the best speed figure in his career in that heat. Florent Geroux regains the assignment.

#12 YOSHIDA (7-2) makes his first start since checking in sixth in the Dubai World Cup. His first two dirt starts in 2019 were strong, as he won the Woodward before finishing a respectable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, Jose Ortiz has his work cut out for him on this deep closer from a wide post.

The play: $4 exacta 6/9,10,12 ($12)

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