Now that we are past the hype of the Triple Crown, we venture back to Churchill Downs for the Stephen H. Foster Stakes. This 1-1/8 mile affair is for older horses and will be contested around 2 turns over Churchill’s dirt course.
This year’s version welcomes back 3 contestants who were on the 2017 Derby trail. Patch, Lookin At Lee, and Irish War Cry will all be returning to Kentucky, and it is safe to say that none of them have been burning up the racetrack since last year’s Triple Crown runs.
The 6/5 morning line favorite is Backyard Heaven. Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz, this horse has won 3 straight, including the G2 Alysheba here at Churchill. With consistently high speed figures and an expert team behind him, favoritism is surely deserved.
Backyard Heaven looks to be the quickest out of the gate but he may choose to let Irish War Cry or Uncle Mojo get on the engine. From the rail, Honorable Duty also looks to like the front but his speed figures don’t give me confidence that he can get there. Even Kentucky Derby closer Lookin At Lee has shown some recent early foot, albeit against an optional claiming crowd where he won at 6-1 odds.
There are a couple of popular names in this field who may get over-bet. Irish War Cry, a onetime Kentucky Derby future book favorite, continues to baffle me as he has never put back to back good efforts together. This race will be his 2nd off of a layoff, and on the heels of a winning effort in the G3 Pimlico Special.
Then there is the sentimental on-eyed favorite Patch who needed to drop into non-winners of 1 allowance company in order to post a win. And the aforementioned Lookin At Lee who had to drop into the optional claiming ranks to in order to find the winner’s circle.
With enough early foot, tactical speed, and the best speed figures in the field, I will have to stick with Backyard Heaven for the win. But at a short price, I am going to dig deeper for an ice cold exacta. The horse I landed on for 2nd is the #4, Uncle Mojo. With the duo of Pletcher and Velasquez behind him, I expect this colt’s first try against graded stakes company to be competitive. He has failed as the favorite 4 times in 5 tries, but his 12 length victory at Pimlico in his last, albeit against allowance company, may have been his coming out party.
The bottom line is that I will go with an ice cold exacta, Backyard Heaven to win and Uncle Mojo to place.