01/13/2012 2:43PM

Churchill Downs: Under-the-lights Foster one of many stakes schedule changes

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs officials on Friday released the stakes schedule for the 2012 spring meet with a few notable changes, including having the Stephen Foster card as one of four “Downs After Dark” programs on a Saturday night.

As usual, the Kentucky Derby and Oaks anchor the meet, which will run April 28 through July 1. The 138th running of the $2 million Derby is set for May 5, the day after the $1 million Oaks.

The purse for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, a $750,000 race for much of the last decade, has been decreased from $500,000-added to $400,000-added. The 1 1/8-mile race for older horses is set for the evening of June  16, when three other graded stakes will be run, including the Grade 2, $150,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, which was put on hiatus last year. The 2010 Fleur de Lis marked the final career win for Rachel Alexandra.

Replacing the Fleur de Lis on the hiatus list are two other longtime Foster Day stakes, the Dogwood and Jefferson Cup, which will not be run this year. The Foster is one of a handful of races that underwent a change in purse; races such as the Edgewood and Churchill Downs underwent increases, while others took slight cuts.

Downs After Dark, which began at the 2009 spring meet and has proved highly popular with local fans, will be used to showcase the Grade 3, $200,000 Derby Trial on opening night for the second straight year. Last year, a track record for night racing of 38,142 turned out to see Machen narrowly defeat Dominus in the Trial.

The two other Downs After Dark programs also are set for Saturday nights: the June 2 card featuring three Grade 3 stakes, and the June 30 card led by the Grade 3 Bashford Manor. There will be no Friday night programs as in years past.

The Derby and Oaks schedules remain the same. The Derby undercard is led as usual by the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Grade 1, $300,000 Humana Distaff, with four other graded races on tap. The Oaks undercard includes five stakes, including the Grade 2, $300,000 La  Troienne and the Grade 2, $300,000 Alysheba.

One quirk in the schedule: after Derby Day, only one stakes, the $100,000 Louisville Handicap on May 26, will be run during the four-week span leading up to the June 2 card. There are no stakes scheduled for Preakness Day (May 19), Belmont Stakes Day (June 9), or Memorial Day (May 28).

The meet ends on Sunday, July  1, with the Grade 2, $150,000 Firecracker Handicap. Churchill has run through the July 4 holiday for many years but shortened its request for 2012 dates last fall from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, effectively allowing Ellis Park to have that date to itself.

In all, 24 stakes worth nearly $7.3  million will be run at the spring meet. Last year, 25 stakes offered $50,000 more in total purse money.

2012 Churchill Downs stakes schedule

DATE EVENT CONDITIONS DISTANCE PURSE
Sat., April 28 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (G3) 3YO 1 mile $200,000
Fri., May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1) 3YO F 1 1/8 miles 1,000,000
Fri., May 4 La Troienne (G2) F-M, 4YO & Up 1 1/16 miles 300,000
Fri., May 4 Alysheba (G2) 4YO & Up 1 1/16 miles 300,000
Fri., May 4 American Turf (G2) 3YO 1 1/16 miles (T) 200,000
Fri., May 4 Eight Belles (G3) 3YO F 7 furlongs 100,000
Fri., May 4 Edgewood 3YO F 1 1/16 miles (T) 150,000
Sat., May 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) 3YO 1 1/4 miles 2,000,000
Sat., May 5 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) 4YO & Up 1 1/8 miles (T) 500,000
Sat., May 5 Humana Distaff (G1) F-M, 4YO & Up 7 furlongs 300,000
Sat., May 5 Churchill Downs (G2) 4YO & Up 7 furlongs 400,000
Sat., May 5 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) F-M, 4YO & Up 1 mile (T) 200,000
Sat., May 5 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) 4YO & Up 5 furlongs (T) 125,000
Sat., May 26 Louisville Handicap (G3) 3YO & Up 1 1/2 miles (T) 100,000
Sat., June 2 Aristides (G3) 3YO & Up 6 furlongs 100,000
Sat., June 2 Winning Colors (G3) F-M, 3YO & Up 6 furlongs 100,000
Sat., June 2 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (G3) F-M, 3YO & Up 1 1/16 miles (T) 100,000
Sat., June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) 3YO & Up 1 1/8 miles 400,000
Sat., June 16 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) F-M, 3YO & Up 1 1/8 miles 150,000
Sat., June 16 Matt Winn (G3) 3YO 1 1/16 miles 100,000
Sat., June 16 Regret (G3) 3YO F 1 1/8 miles (T) 100,000
Sat., June 23 Debutante (G3) 2YO F 6 furlongs 100,000
Sat., June 30 Bashford Manor (G3) 2YO 6 furlongs 100,000
Sun., July 1 Firecracker Handicap (G2) 3YO & Up 1 mile (T) 150,000