Breeders' Cup Qualifier: Stephen Foster Handicap Picks
Stephen Foster Handicap Odds and Preview
A longtime fixture on the North American racing calendar, last year's Stephen Foster featured superstar Gun Runner, who won the race and then took the Breeders' Cup Classic as well. Prior to that, Fort Larned turned the Stephen Foster/BC Classic trick in 2013.
The race is for colts aged three and older, and they run 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill Downs dirt for a total purse of $500,000.
Although the Stephen Foster will feature a few names familiar to racing fans from the 2017 Triple Crown trail, the heavy favorite in the race at morning line odds of 6-5 is a relative unknown in Backyard Heaven. Trained by Chad Brown, he's a lightly raced four year old who broke his maiden at second asking last year at Aqueduct.
This year he didn't get back to the races until mid-March, taking an allowance-level event also at the New York track, before stepping up big time last out in the (G2) Alysheba Stakes at Churchill, taking the 1 1/16 mile race by more than four lengths over a very good field that included 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, as well as Hoppertunity, who last weekend won the (G2) Brooklyn Invitational.
He pressed a very quick pace to the 3/4 mile mark in the Alysheba before taking command, and if he can show that kind of early speed once again he could be very tough to run down here.
Irish War Cry a Talented Question Mark
Trying to go with him early is likely to be Irish War Cry (5-1) one of the aforementioned contenders in last year's Triple Crown series. He was in fact the co-favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby and looked a winner until fading badly in the stretch. He gained some redemption from that effort by running second in last year's Belmont Stakes, and although he can be maddingly inconsistent, he is a talented colt and comes in off a wire-to-wire win one month ago in the (G2) Pimlico Special.
Breaking from the rail position, Honorable Duty (6-1) was second in the Stephen Foster last year, and overall has won eight of 18 lifetime starts including a trio of graded-stakes races. Two starts back he was pulled up with a minor injury in the (G1) Clark Handicap and was then away from the races for six months.
He made his 2018 debut a winning one at the allowance level last month and could be primed to run a big one on Saturday at what should be very playable odds.
On the far outside gate and also at odds of 5-1, Pavel has been just missing the money recently, with four consecutive fourth-place finishes to his name following a tenth-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. It should be noted that three of those four races were top-level Grade 1 events, including the $10 million Dubai World Cup and he'll get both a cut back in distance and class relief here.
The 2018 Stephen Foster Handicap is part of Churchill's Saturday night card and is scheduled to go to the post at 9:39 PM Eastern. Race #8 of 11 on the card, the Stephen Foster immediately follows the (G2) Fleur d'Lis Handicap for fillies and mares, which is a 'Win And You're In' race for the 2018 BC Distaff.
Entries w/ ML Odds
- Honorable Duty (6-1)
- Patch (10-1)
- Haawakom (12-1)
- Uncle Mojo (10-1)
- Matrooh (20-1)
- Backyard Heaven (6-5)
- Lookin' At Lee (12-1)
- Irish War Cry (5-1)
- Pavel (5-1)
Stephen Foster Handicap Picks
- 1) #6 - Backyard Heaven
- 2) #8 - Irish War Cry
- 3) #1 - Honorable Duty
- 4) #9 - Pavel
Betting the Stephen Foster Handicap
As metioned earlier, the Stephen Foster is the highlight of the Saturday evening card at Churchill, but if you can't be at the track you can still bet every race as well as make a future bet on the Breeders' Cup Classic and Distaff races at Bovada's online racebook.
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Other famous winners of the Travers States are Alydar, Arrogate, Buckpasser, Easy Goer, Man o’ War, Point Given, and Sword Dancer. The winner of this race also receives an automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup.