A field of eight older horses is set to run in Saturday’s Stephen Foster Stakes at Ellis Park in Henderson.
Three horses, including 3-1 morning-line favorite Smile Happy, are coming into the race off victories. The 4-year-old colt trained by Kenny McPeek last raced in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs, where he stalked leader West Will Power for the first half of the race before taking the lead and beating Art Collector by two lengths.
West Will Power, trained by Brad Cox, is the 7-2 second choice. The 6-year-old horse seeks his seventh career victory and second this year. He’s 1-1-1 this year.
Cox believes the 1-1/8-mile race suits his horse.
“He’s the type of horse that likes to be either on the lead or sit just off the leader’s hip,” Cox said. “He was impressive at Fair Grounds this winter and ran well last time at Churchill. I think he got a lot out of that race and fits well moving forward in the Foster.”
Smile Happy will break from the fifth gate, while West Will Power starts beside him in sixth.
Not only does the winning entry receive more than $600,000 for winning the Grade I $1 million race, but they also receive an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will take place Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
Competitive Field Coming Off Hard-Fought Races
Besides Smile Happy, Rattle N Roll and Proxy also come off wins.
Proxy, a 5-year-old horse trained by Michael Stidham, took the Oaklawn Handicap on April 22 by a head over Last Samurai and Stilleto Boy thanks to a furious charge down the stretch, where he was last in a field of seven.
All three will square off again in the Stephen Foster, with 4-1 Proxy drawing the inside post, trainer Ed Moger Jr.’s Stilleto Boy breaking from second and D. Wayne Lukas’ Last Samurai coming out of the seventh gate.
Rattle N Roll is the second of McPeek’s entries in the race. The 4-year-old colt is the hottest horse in the field, having won the June 3 Blame Stakes at Churchill, the May 19 Pimlico Special and the April 22 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland.
With 4-1 morning-line odds, Rattle N Roll will break from the fourth gate.
Other entries in the race are the Ron Moquett-trained Speed Bias, who was nosed out by Rattle N Roll in the Pimlico Special after leading the from the start of the 1-3/16-mile race, and Happy American, trained by Neil Pessin and coming off a third-place showing in the Blame.
Speed Bias drew the third post and has 12-1 morning-line odds, while 20-1 Happy American will break from the outside.
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Stakes Race Moved From Churchill
The Stephen Foster was supposed to be the featured event of the last weekend of Churchill Downs’ spring meet. However, officials at the Louisville track suspended racing there earlier this month after conferring with officials from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority in the wake of a dozen horses dying there over five weeks.
Churchill Downs moved the rest of its spring meet, including the Stephen Foster and five other stakes races on Saturday’s card, to Ellis Park, which it acquired last year.
The spring meet is scheduled to end on Sunday. However, racing will resume at Ellis Park on July 7, when its summer meet begins.
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