Congaree Breezes at Churchill; Will Start in Stephen Foster or Californian

Stonerside Stable's Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) winner Congaree tuned up for a possible berth in Saturday's Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs when he breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Monday.

With jockey Sal Gonzalez, Jr. aboard, the Bob Baffert-trained 4-year-old son of Arazi was timed by Churchill Downs clockers in fractions of :12 4/5, :25, :37 2/5 and :49 2/5.

"He worked nice," said Baffert. "He cruised on around there. He's looking really good."

Congaree's high weight assignment of 121 pounds, conceding from one to 11 pounds to the other probable starters, has led Baffert to consider passing the Stephen Foster in favor of Saturday's $500,000 Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park.

Baffert said he is concerned about the spread in those weight assignments. Last year, Baffert's Dubai World Cup (gr. I) winner Captain Steve finished second while carrying 10 pounds more than eventual winner Guided Tour. Baffert's Silver Charm conceded 14 pounds to the victorious Awesome Again in his runner-up finish in the 1998 Foster.

"I'm looking out for the horse," said Baffert. "We had similar spreads with Silver Charm and Captain Steve and it took its toll on those horses. It takes a special toll on a horse coming off just one race. I want to keep this horse together for the Breeders' Cup."

The Stephen Foster, the feature on a card that includes four stakes with total purses of $1.3 million, is also expected to Street Cry (120), Hail The Chief (117), Invisible Ink (116), Tenpins (115), Unshaded (115), Dollar Bill (114), Parade Leader (113), Connected (112), Slider (111), and Proper Man (110).

The other stakes on the Stephen Foster card are the $300,000-added Fleur De Lis (gr. II), a1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares 3 & up; the $150,000-added Regret (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16-miles on turf; and the $100,000-added Northern Dancer for 3-year-olds at a mile.

The Stephen Foster will be televised live as part of CBS Sports' inaugural telecast of the "NTRA Summer Racing Tour," which will air Saturday from 5-6 p.m. (EDT).

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