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Foster's best aim for the Whitney
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Several of the top finishers in the $829,500 Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday at Churchill Downs, including the victorious Flashy Bull, are expected to reconvene July 28 at Saratoga in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap.
Flashy Bull left Churchill the afternoon following his narrow victory over Magna Graduate, whose late rush in the Grade 1 race fell short by a head. Magna Graduate and his Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Master Command, the beaten Foster favorite, also could make their next starts in the Whitney, as could Diamond Stripes, who incurred his first career defeat in five starts when finishing a late-running third.
Flashy Bull, said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, "pulled up in good shape, and everything looks good." The win was the fourth in a row for Flashy Bull and marked a major milestone for his owners, West Point Thoroughbreds, as the syndicate's first Grade 1 victory.
Flashy Bull and Magna Graduate both earned 105 Beyer Speed Figures in the Foster.
Meanwhile, Pletcher was trying to determine to what degree a pulled shoe in the paddock and some minor first-turn traffic trouble contributed to Master Command's subpar sixth-place effort. Both Master Command and longshot Mr. Umphrey lost a shoe in the paddock, leading to a 12-minute delay in the start of the race.
A shoe repair just before a race "is never a positive thing," noted Pletcher, adding that the horse was "shuffled about" when he lost position into the first turn.
"He just never really was able to find his groove," Pletcher said.
Wanderin Boy, fifth after chasing the pace set by Mr. Umphrey, incurred superficial cuts on his right hind leg but is expected to be okay, according to Heather Stark, assistant to trainer Nick Zito.
Indian Vale has choice of two targets
Indian Vale, winner of the Fleur de Lis Handicap on Saturday, will run next in the July 15 Delaware Handicap or the July 28 Go for Wand, said Pletcher. The Foster and Fleur de Lis were among six graded stakes run here Saturday.
Indian Vale, now a winner in 7 of 10 career starts, got a 100 Beyer in her 1 1/2-length triumph over Asi Siempre, a 5-year-old mare who will make her next start at Del Mar, said trainer Patrick Biancone.
Among the Fleur de Lis disappointments was Ermine, who faded to fourth after making a bold run at Indian Vale turning for home.
"Right now, it just looks like it was an off day for her," said trainer Ronny Werner.
Asmussen a neck away from another stakes
Trainer Steve Asmussen had a great Foster Day, winning the Jefferson Cup with Inca King as well as three other races at Churchill Downs. He sent out Sea of Joy to win the Crank It Up at Monmouth Park, and also had winners at Arlington Park and Lone Star for a total of nine races around the country.
But the one that got away was the Grade 3 Northern Dancer at Churchill, where Zanjero appeared to have Chelokee beaten but wound up surrendering the lead in deep stretch, losing by a neck.
Zanjero was making his first start since finishing 12th in the May 5 Kentucky Derby.
"We were impressed with his effort," said Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi. "Horses that run in the Derby generally have trouble in coming back out of those performances."
Among the Asmussen winners earlier in the day was Simon Pure, a 4-year-old colt who had not raced since last November, when he was trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Owned by Beverly Lewis, Simon Pure earned a lifetime-high 97 Beyer in winning a seven-furlong allowance by four eased-up lengths.
Meanwhile, trainer Michael Matz said he was unsure of the next start for Chelokee, who earned a 100 Beyer.
"I always said this horse was going to improve with racing and experience, and he has a disposition like no other," said Matz. "He's just a terrific-dispositioned horse."
Inca King scores in debut for new trainer
Like Simon Pure, Inca King was making his first start under Asmussen's care when he led all the way in upsetting the Jefferson Cup at 8-1, getting an 89 Beyer. Blasi said he did not know when the colt would run next.
"There are a lot of good races for grass horses, and he seems able to go far enough," he said.
Duveen, second as the odds-on favorite, was pinned along the hedge for much of the way while chasing the winner and never caught a breather. Trainer Dale Romans said the July 21 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs is next.
No set plan for Quite a Bride
Quite a Bride, the Bill Mott-trained filly who lowered the turf-course record by winning the 1 1/16-mile Mint Julep in 1:40.70, probably will not run back in the Grade 3, $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that helps to close out the Churchill meet on July 8.
"The 1 1/8 miles don't really suit her," said Mott. "We don't know where we'll go next with her."
While Quite a Bride had everything her own way as the solo pacesetter in earning a 100 Beyer in the Mint Julep, Danzon, third as the odds-on favorite, never got in the hunt after stumbling at the break.
"She ran all right, but she was a bit flat," said her trainer, Biancone, adding that the ground may have been too firm for the former French-based filly.
Good Mood may accept American Oaks invite
Good Mood, who overcame trouble in a flashy Regret Stakes win that earned a 96 Beyer, is expected to be invited to the Grade 1 American Oaks on July 7 at Hollywood Park. Biancone, who trains her, said he would seriously consider the offer.
Among the Regret also-rans, Dawn After Dawn bled slightly while finishing fifth but still could run next in the July 14 Delaware Oaks, said trainer Wes Hawley.
Lemons Forever remembers how to win
Lemons Forever, the 4-year-old filly who had been winless in eight starts since upsetting the 2006 Kentucky Oaks at 47-1, finally broke through with a victory here Friday when she drew off for a 3 1/4-length score in a turf allowance.
"Man, it felt great to get back in the winner's circle, and I was so happy for her," said trainer Dallas Stewart.
Lemons Forever probably will run next in the Locust Grove, he added.
* The Sunday feature was won in impressive fashion by a Chicago invader, Ciao, a Frank Kirby-trained filly who is now 2 for 2 over the Churchill turf course. Ciao, a 3-year-old daughter of Lear Fan, won an overnight stakes here last fall.
* The next stakes at Churchill is the Grade 2, $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap, a one-mile turf race on June 30.