06/11/2010 11:00PM

Battle Plan rolls into Foster

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Adam Coglianese
Battle Plan will bring a four-race winning streak into Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There was the Kentucky Derby, then the Metropolitan Mile. Now trainer Todd Pletcher has set his sights on another first: the Stephen Foster Handicap.

Pletcher will be in Saturday from New York to saddle Battle Plan at Churchill Downs as one of the main contenders in the Grade 1, $600,000 Foster, a race that Pletcher is looking to add to his list of 2010 firsts. Last month, Pletcher won his first Derby with Super Saver and his first Met Mile with Quality Road.

Battle Plan, bred and owned by Overbrook Farm, arrived here Monday and had his first two tours of the Churchill surface Tuesday and Wednesday, with local assistant Michael McCarthy overseeing the training.

"He's a fantastic-looking horse," McCarthy said. "Nothing but class, tons of pedigree, tons of upside. Hopefully, he'll get over the track well Saturday and earn his way back for the Breeders' Cup Classic in November."

Battle Plan, with Javier Castellano to ride, was assigned post 2 when entries were drawn Wednesday for the 29th running of the 1 1/8-mile Foster. Blame, who figures to vie for favoritism with Battle Plan, was assigned the outside post in a field of 11 older horses.

In his last start, Battle Plan dominated the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on the March 27 Louisiana Derby undercard at Fair Grounds, marking not only his fourth straight victory but also his entry into the upper reaches of the handicap division. The 5-year-old horse is regally bred, being by Empire Maker out of the champion mare Flanders, and although compromised by injuries earlier in his career, he clearly is on his game now.

"He's already shown he's a nice handicap horse, but we really think he could be a top-notch one," McCarthy said.

Churchill racing officials got all the Foster starters they expected, with Demarcation being a last-minute addition to the cast. Demarcation also is entered in an overnight grass stakes on the Friday night card at Churchill.

Other notables in an outstanding field are Arson Squad (post 5), General Quarters (post 6), and the defending Foster champion, Macho Again (post 9).

The Foster is carded as the 10th race and is the last of five straight stakes on an 11-race program. The Saturday stakes lineup leads off with the Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (race 6), in which Rachel Alexandra will be a heavy favorite.

Three other Grade 3 stakes are set for Saturday:

* $100,000 Jefferson Cup (race 7): Asphalt, Guys Reward, Lost Aptitude, and Our Douglas are the top contenders in a well-matched field of nine 3-year-olds in this 1 1/16-mile turf race.

* $125,000 Northern Dancer (race 8): Colizeo and Prince Will I Am, one-two in a recent Churchill allowance, clash with Lone Star Derby runner-up Crider and four other 3-year-olds in this 1 1/16-mile race.

* $125,000 Regret (race 9): In what is clearly the deepest undercard race of the day, the uncoupled Tom Proctor duo of Queen of the Creek and Snow Top Mountain face It's Tea Time, Dynazaper, and Beautician among a field of 13 3-year-old fillies in this 1 1/8-mile turf race.

First post Saturday is 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with the Fleur de Lis at 3:26 and the Foster at 5:29. Churchill also is reviving the Kentucky Derby Alumni Day theme Saturday for the first time in about 10 years.

Local Belmont runners getting breaks

The three Louisville-based 3-year-olds who ran last Saturday in the Belmont Stakes all returned no worse for the wear and are getting short breaks before resuming their campaigns.

First Dude, third in the Belmont after running second in the Preakness, will be pointed to the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

"He was the only horse in the money in more than one of the Triple Crown races, so we're awfully proud of him," trainer Dale Romans said. "We'll take him to Saratoga and see whether we should get a prep in him before the Travers. He's doing great."

Stay Put, sixth in the Belmont, "is going to get a few extra days to just get over the race," trainer Steve Margolis said. "We don't have anything in mind for him. We'll just weigh the options."

Stately Victor, eighth in the Belmont and Kentucky Derby, will run next in a grass or synthetic race, trainer Mike Maker said from the Trackside training center, just a few miles from Churchill.

"I think he showed us we'd better take him off the dirt, at least for now," Maker said.

* HRTV will provide extensive onsite coverage of both the program Friday night and the Foster card on Saturday. Aaron Vercruysse and Caton Bredar will anchor the Friday broadcast and will be joined by Gary Stevens on Saturday. All races will be shown live on both days.