06/15/2011 5:31PM

Churchill Downs: Fleur de Lis will return to stakes schedule


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Conspicuous by its absence from the Stephen Foster Day program is the Fleur de Lis Handicap, a longstanding major race for fillies and mares. Churchill officials put the Fleur de Lis on hiatus for a year, with the intention of bringing it back so as to keep its Grade 2 status. (The North American Graded Stakes Committee allows a race to be skipped one year, but no more, to maintain a grade.)

The Fleur de Lis frequently clashed with the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, which will be run Saturday at Belmont Park. Last year, Rachel Alexandra won the 36th Fleur de Lis as the 1-10 favorite in a field of five.

“In a lot of years, we’d get just five or six starters for the Fleur de Lis, and they’d also get a small field for the Ogden Phipps,” Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman said. He added that because Churchill was seeking to decrease its stakes purses this year because of budgetary considerations, the Fleur de Lis became temporarily expendable, given the circumstances.

“We have every intention of restoring it for next year,” Huffman said. “It’s got a lot of history to it, and it’s a Grade 2 that we very much want to keep.”

Flat Out looks to upset in Stephen Foster

There is ample precedent – both old and new – for a longshot such as Flat Out to pull a surprise Saturday in the Stephen Foster.

The Foster has been known to produce major upsets, such as Colonial Colony at 62-1 in 2004 and Seek Gold at a whopping 91-1 in 2006. And there was Animal Kingdom at 20-1 in the Derby, Shackleford at 12-1 in the Preakness, and Ruler On Ice at 24-1 in the Belmont. Need any more?

Trained by Scooter Dickey, Flat Out figures to be one of the longer prices in the Foster, despite coming off a sharp runner-up finish behind Awesome Gem in the May 30 Lone Star Park Handicap. Flat Out, a 5-year-old horse by Flatter, has been bothered throughout a stop-and-go career by sore feet, “but he’s fine now,” Dickey said. “The horse is doing good, and he’s ready.”

General Quarters eyes Firecracker Handicap

General Quarters, a bang-up second in his return to action here last Friday, could be headed next to the Grade 2, $175,000 Firecracker Handicap, a one-mile turf race set for closing day, July 4, according to owner-trainer Tom McCarthy.

General Quarters was making his first start since last August when he rallied strongly in the seven-furlong allowance, only to be beaten a neck by Native Ruler, a multiple stakes-winning sprinter. General Quarters earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure.

A return to the Churchill turf would be a very logical move for 5-year-old General Quarters, who captured the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the 2010 Kentucky Derby undercard.

◗ Hamazing Destiny, unraced since finishing second at 23-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint here last fall for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, was among the Tuesday workers when going a bullet half-mile in 47.40 seconds over a fast main track. It was the fourth work for the 5-year-old horse since he returned from a lengthy freshening.