06/12/2013 1:43PM

Churchill Downs: Take Charge Indy's tactics in Stephen Foster will be left to Napravnik

Barbara D. Livingston
Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard Take Charge Indy when he won last month's Alysheba, will choose where to place her mount during the early stages of Saturday night's Stephen Foster.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Three of the four top contenders in the Stephen Foster Handicap bring forth essentially the same running style – on or near the lead – and how it all plays out is a matter of keen interest to Pat Byrne, trainer of Take Charge Indy, one of that trio.

Along with Take Charge Indy, Successful Dan and Fort Larned also have an outstanding turn of foot that will be a critical part of race strategy when the Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster is run Saturday night at Churchill Downs for the 32nd time.

“We’ll either be on the lead or we’ll be close,” said Byrne, who will give Rosie Napravnik a leg up on his stable star. “Or maybe we’ll drop back, I don’t know. I’m leaving it up to Rosie.”

Byrne noted that Successful Dan figures to be fresh and sharp under Julien Leparoux after having raced just once in the last 11-plus months, while Fort Larned, with Brian Hernandez Jr. riding for trainer Ian Wilkes, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall in wire-to-wire fashion.

“It’s a tactical race and a tough one to handicap,” Byrne said. “Ian’s horse seems to do his best on the lead. He doesn’t have to be, I know, but why wouldn’t you after what he did in the Breeders’ Cup?”

Ron the Greek, winner of the 2012 Foster after rallying from second-to-last, is the remaining contender among the top four choices. His from-the-back style obviously contrasts to the other three. Jose Lezcano rides Ron the Greek for trainer Bill Mott.

“You’ve got to be hoping for a speed duel if you’re him,” Byrne said. “I’m thinking you’ve got heads-up riders in the race, and they’ll be trying not to set it up for a closer like him. But you never know. It’s a very interesting race the way it all shapes up.”