Updated on 09/15/2011 12:25PM

Captain Steve back in action

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Captain Steve gallops under Mick Jenner at Churchill on Thursday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Captain Steve is already there. After winning the Donn Handicap and Dubai World Cup in his only two starts this year, the colt, along with Tiznow, stands atop the North American handicap division.

Unshaded strives to be there. Widely regarded as one of the top 3-year-olds of 2000 after winning the Travers Stakes, the gelding had been out of sight and out of mind until returning to action last month.

On Saturday, these two talented 4-year-olds will try to strengthen their positions in the handicap division when they clash at Churchill Downs in , a race that in recent years has evolved into a Midwest summit meeting for top older horses.

The Grade 2 Foster, part of the NTRA Champions series, will be aired live on CBS. Post time is 5:42 p.m. Eastern.

Bob Baffert, fresh off another career pinnacle after saddling Point Given to a smashing Belmont Stakes win last Saturday, has been in Louisville most of this week to oversee the training of Captain Steve.

Although Baffert is well aware of the potential pitfalls of shipping horses to and from Dubai, he is confident that Captain Steve has had sufficient time to recover from the arduous journey. The Foster comes 12 weeks after the Dubai win.

"I really think he's going to be right there," said Baffert. "You never know until they run that first race back, but everything this horse has been showing me is that he's ready to go again."

Captain Steve, to be ridden again by Jerry Bailey, will break from the rail in the 1 1/8-mile Foster, which drew eight older horses. A victory would boost Captain Steve's earnings to more than $7 million and place him third on the all-time earnings list behind only Cigar and Skip Away.

Like Captain Steve, Unshaded enters the Foster under scrutiny, albeit of a different nature. The gelding was sidelined after the Travers because of a strained tendon, an injury that was diagnosed in its earliest stages and repaired by surgery. After watching Unshaded win a May 17 allowance prep here, trainer Carl Nafzger proclaimed the tendon a thing of the past.

"Any time a horse makes a comeback from an injury, that's one of the most important races of his career," said Nafzger. "You ask a lot of questions, like, 'Has he kept that competitive edge?' I think his race the other day showed he has. Now we're trying to build off that."

Unshaded, with Robby Albarado up, will break from the far outside. He will carry 118 pounds, five fewer than topweighted Captain Steve. Other weight assignments range from 117 down to 111.

The probable third choice in the race is another 4-year-old: Brahms, a Danzig colt making just his second start on dirt. His first resulted in a poor trip and poor finish in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile for previous connections.

"He trains like a top horse on dirt," said trainer Elliott Walden, who won the Foster two years ago with eventual handicap champion Victory Gallop. "We're hopeful, that's for sure."

The balance of the Foster field is Guided Tour, Duckhorn, Graeme Hall, Jadada, and Da Devil.

For television, the Foster has been carded as the last of 11 Saturday races. It is the anchor leg of a pick four wager comprised entirely of Churchill stakes. The $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap goes as race eight, followed by the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, the $150,000 Regret Stakes, and the Foster.

The Fleur de Lis also will be shown live on the CBS telecast, along with the Dallas Turf Cup from Lone Star Park.

Although the Louisville weather this week has been particularly hot and humid, the Saturday forecast calls for a high of 83 degrees and only a slight chance of rain.

Churchill officials are hoping for an ontrack crowd nearing 18,000. First post is 12:40 p.m.