06/04/2013 1:51PM

Churchill Downs: Rosario to return for rich Stephen Foster Handicap card


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Joel Rosario, North America’s top jockey in earnings this year, will return to Churchill Downs for the first time since his Kentucky Derby victory to ride in all four graded stakes on the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap program.

Rosario, who will ride Golden Ticket in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, also has committed to Funny Proposition in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap, Sunbean in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes, and Kitten’s Dumplings in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes, according to his agent, Ron Anderson.

Sometime during Foster night, Rosario will be formally presented with his engraved jockey’s trophy for his triumph aboard Orb in the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Rosario capped a spectacular month on this circuit in the Derby, his 14th and final win of opening week at the Churchill spring meet. In the three preceding weeks, Rosario set a Keeneland spring-meet record with 38 winners.

Rosario, based primarily in New York, led all jockeys entering this week with almost $9.8 million in mount earnings. Including his earnings from Dubai in March, that total soars to almost $15.8 million for 2013.

The Foster program is the first of three remaining Downs After Dark cards (June 15, 22, and 29), with first post set for 6 p.m. Eastern. The program usually includes a presentation of engraved trophies to all winning Derby connections, but it is uncertain whether Orb’s owners and breeders, Dinny Phipps and Stuart Janney III, or his trainer, Shug McGaughey, will be in attendance.

The prospective field for the $500,000 Foster stands at six, while the main supporting feature, the Fleur de Lis, has only four known runners at this early juncture.

The Foster lineup is expected to include Successful Dan, Ron the Greek, Take Charge Indy, Fort Larned, Golden Ticket, and Pool Play.

Cyber Secret, the winner of the Oaklawn Handicap, has been dropped from consideration for the Foster, trainer Lynn Whiting said this week. The 4-year-old colt breezed five furlongs over the Churchill turf last week.

“I just don’t think he handles the main track very well, and I was trying to get him over to the grass, but I’m not all that sure I liked what I saw there either,” Whiting said. “I’ve decided to just give him a little break.”

Royal Delta, the defending champion in the $175,000 Fleur de Lis and the reigning divisional Eclipse champion, heads a field that also is expected to include On Fire Baby, Wine Princess, and Funny Proposition.

Weights for both 1 1/8-mile handicaps will be released Saturday, with entries for all races drawn the following Wednesday.

Royal Delta, along with other Foster-night runners based on the East Coast, is scheduled to be flown here Sunday from New York with horses returning from Belmont Park’s weekend stakes action.

Maker, Asmussen stay hot

Can’t these guys give anybody else a turn?

Mike Maker and Steve Asmussen have separated themselves from the rest of the Churchill training colony in their own little match race. Entering this week, Maker led the standings with 20 wins, followed by 17 for Asmussen. There was a three-way tie for third at eight wins apiece.

Maker still refuses to “bounce” from his historic April at Keeneland, where he broke the record for the most wins at a meet with 25. On Sunday, Maker tied a modern record at Churchill by sending out four winners, just the sixth time since 1991 that a trainer has won that many on a single Churchill program, according to the track’s publicity department.

Meanwhile, Asmussen also had another productive week here by winning three races, including the nominal Sunday feature with Betweenhereandcool and yet another 2-year-old maiden race Saturday with a first-time-starting colt named D’cajun Cat. He has dominated the juvenile racing at this meet with six winners.

Lea adjusts to slop

When the targeted comeback race for the 4-year-old Lea was rained off the turf Saturday, trainer Al Stall Jr. did not skip a beat.

“He’s by First Samurai, who won the Champagne in a sea of slop when he was a 2-year-old,” said Stall, who trains the homebred colt for the partnership of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.

Lea, returning from a layoff of more than six months, not only made his first main-track start a winning one but also earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 97 in the third-level allowance. The colt is now 4 for 6 lifetime. It clearly was a win-win situation, since Lea stands to benefit substantially from the outing before returning to turf against graded-stakes company.

Stall said the next race for Lea will be either the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill on June 29 or the Grade 3 Poker at Belmont on July 4. The Firecracker is expected to be the next race for Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year.

◗ A parade of longshots lit up the tote board at Churchill on Sunday, when Daydream, a 12-1 shot ridden by John McKee, won the seventh race, a maiden-claiming turf route. The runner-up, Fivefeethi Nrisen, was 72-1; the third finisher, Gunner Gal, was 21-1; and the fourth finisher, Raisela, was 40-1. The 10-cent superfecta combination of 8-3-12-7 returned $5,193, meaning that from a pool of $58,358, there were only nine winning dime tickets sold.

◗ Unlike last spring, when Corey Lanerie romped past him during the final few weeks of the meet, Shaun Bridgmohan shows no signs of letting up. The 33-year-old native of Jamaica won six more races on the three programs here last week and is holding sway atop the jockeys’ leaderboard with 35 wins, followed by Lanerie (26) and Rosie Napravnik (23).

◗ The highlight of this weekend at Churchill comes Saturday with the Grade 3, $100,000 Mint Julep Handicap, a filly-and-mare turf race for which entries were to be drawn Wednesday. The entire 11-race Saturday card will be run prior to the Belmont Stakes simulcast.

◗ Sweet Cassiopeia, the standout sprinter who had her five-race winning streak snapped in the The Very One Stakes on Preakness weekend at Pimlico, has resurfaced in the Churchill entries for Friday. She will face Good Deed in a very competitive $60,000 turf sprint carded as the fourth of 11 races.