Stephen Foster 2019: Odds and analysis for Saturday's race

June 12, 2019 03:08pm

While Churchill Downs' Grade 2, $600,000 Stephen Foster no longer carries Grade 1 status, it still packs a punch with a competitive field lined up for this year’s edition. A few established horses in Gift Box and Yoshida will take on the likes of Tom’s d’Etat Tenfold and an up-and-comer named Alkhaatam.

Although Gift Box is in sharp form, he does not look invincible by any means after losing his last start in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) to Vino Rosso. He possesses high talent, but no one will mistake him for, say, the 2017 Foster hero Gun Runner.  

In other words, it makes sense to take a shot against Gift Box, or at least use a horse or two alongside him. I'll get more into that strategy after introducing the field. 

The Stephen Foster is carded as Race 8 with post time set for 9:39 p.m. ET. Morning line odds here are projected by Horse Racing Nation.

1. Thirstforlife, 30-1 (Stay Thirsty – Wesley Hawley/Miguel Mena – 22: 7-4-3): This one had a nice trip locally last time when sitting behind a speed duel by American Anthem and Conquest Tsunami, as he took advantage for the win. However, this field looks a lot tougher. Toss.

2. Rated R Superstar, 20-1 (Kodiak Kowboy – Cipriano Contreras/Rodney Prescott – 34: 6-5-6): He finished a flat sixth in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), but two starts ago he did take the Essex Handicap over the same track. Three starts ago, he finished a closing third in the Razorback Handicap (G3) too. Give him a pass for the most recent effort, as it came over a sloppy track. But even his best closing kick will probably fall short, as he needs more help on the front end than what shows on paper. Use underneath.

3. Runaway Ghost, 25-1 (Ghostzapper – Todd Fincher/Insert Jockey – 11: 7-2-0): It is hard to trust a horse that ran well in all his Sunland Park races this year, but flopped in his only try out of Sunland. He finished last by over 26 lengths in the Commonwealth Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. While he could surprise people, it is preferable to wait until he shows life out of New Mexico. Toss.

4. Seeking the Soul, 10-1 (Perfect Soul – Dallas Stewart/Julien Leparoux – 26: 6-6-7): Everyone knows Seeking the Soul by now. On his best day, he could pick up the win in a race such as this one. But he also throws in some clunkers, as he did in the Dubai World Cup (G1) and last year's Woodward Stakes (G1). It is hard to trust him but also difficult to ignore. Win contender.

5. Alkhaatam, 12-1 (Tapit – Daniel Peitz/Channing Hill – 5: 2-0-2): Interesting horse. In the past two years, he looked like a closer who did not quite understand the game yet. The connections thought highly enough of him to try the 2017 Remsen Stakes (G2), where he finished a belated fourth by more than 11 lengths. But he was not quite put together yet. The switch from Chad Brown to trainer Daniel Peitz helped, as he came back this year in razor-sharp form, breaking his maiden by more than seven lengths and taking a local allowance by more than three. Notice the runner-up Colour Guard won his next start. He can upset Gift Box with one more step forward. My pick.

6. Gift Box, 5-2 (Twirling Candy – John Sadler/Joel Rosario – 16: 5-6-2): Little introduction's needed here. Newly in Sadler's care, he won the San Antonio Stakes (G2) and Santa Anita Handicap (G1) before a close second in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita to Vino Rosso. A repeat of any of those efforts makes him tough. Win contender.

7. Tenfold, 6-1 (Curlin – Steven Asmussen/Ricardo Santana Jr. – 10: 4-0-1): While he did win the Pimlico Special, he looks too slow overall for the top spot. Notice TimeformUS only awarded him a 114 speed figure, and it was his third start off the bench, giving him no excuse. With that said, he might come drive to complete the superfecta. Use underneath.

8. King Zachary, 15-1 (Curlin – Graham Motion/Javier Castellano – 10: 3-0-3): Since winning the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) last summer over this course, he has not looked the same. His return this year resulted in a flat third, several lengths behind Thirstforlife and American Anthem in the aforementioned allowance race. This will mark his second start for Motion. Toss.

9. Tom’s d’Etat, 9-2 (Smart Strike – Albert Stall Jr./Shaun Bridgmohan – 11: 6-2-0): Here is another intriguing runner. He was well-beaten in the Alysheba Stakes (G2), but that was behind McKinzie, who came back to be second in the Met Mile (G1). It was another 3 3/4 lengths back to Seeking the Soul in third, and long gaps between finishers signal a fast race. The distance is not an issue either, as he owns a couple of nine furlong wins at Saratoga. Win contender.

10. Quip, 9-1 (Distorted Humor – Rodolphe Brisset/Florent Geroux – 8: 4-1-1): Even though he won the Oaklawn Handicap with a 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure, the race is questionable because it came in the slop, and the field finished clumped together. Notice the distant third in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream two back, although it came off the layoff. There is upside here, but he needs to back up the Oaklawn race on fast dirt. Use underneath.

11. Exulting, 30-1 (Tapit – Michael Maker/Tyler Gaffalione – 17: 5-2-2): The recent Oaklawn Mile winner looks too slow on paper with little upside. He also probably wants to run in one-mile races, despite the fact he owns one nine-furlong victory. Toss.

12. Yoshida, 8-1 (Heart’s Cry – William Mott/Jose Ortiz – 14: 5-3-0): His two starts this year were disappointing. He finished sixth in both the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Dubai World Cup. But the class is evident, as seen by his close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and win in the Woodward last year. He needs more pace here than he'll get to win. Use underneath.

Alkhaatam gives the impression of a talented horse putting everything together in his 4-year-old season. His two races this year deserve a watch, as the 107 and 111 TimeformUS Speed Figures he earned do not reflect what is seen visually.

At 4-1 or higher, is a fair win or place bet.

The value for the exacta play seems iffy, given Gift Box’s talent and high probability of hitting the board. But Tom’s d’Etat might prove a more value-oriented alternative underneath, or Seeking the Soul. As always, study the expected exacta payouts during live wagering.


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