With a solid mid-June tightener under his belt, the 6-year-old Nureyev horse Good Journey returns to stakes company as the morning-line favorite Thursday in the $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs. The Fourth of July holiday feature has attracted a field of 11.
Good Journey scored his only stakes triumph last November when he won the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park on good turf. The lightly raced horse was away until a one-mile optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on June 15, which he captured by one length under Pat Day, who has a return engagement on Thursday. The win was the fourth in 11 starts for Good Journey, who began his career in France.
Another import who figures to be well supported at the windows is Irish-bred Moon Solitaire, who comes off a victory in the King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap (Can-II) at Woodbine June 16 on soft turf. Prior to that, while making his North American debut, Moon Solitaire lost a nose decision after setting the pace in a Churchill Downs allowance event in May. The 5-year-old son of Night Shift is trained by Henry Cochran.
Strut the Stage began his career in Canada for trainer Mark Frostad, winning two added-money events there as a 3-year-old in 2001, but tackled Beat Hollow, one of the top U.S. turf runners in his last start, the Manhattan Hanadicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park on June 8. The Theatrical colt finished third to Beat Hollow, ending a two-race win streak that began at Keeneland in April and continued in the Dixie Handicap (gr. IIT) at Pimlico in May.
Firecracker Handicap, $250,000, one-mile turf, 3-year-olds and up:
1 -- Moon Solitaire, Mark Guidry, 115, 7-2
2 -- Even the Score, Donnie Meche, 114, 15-1
3 -- Morluc, Garrett Gomez, 114, 10-1
4 -- Dernier Croise, Craig Perret, 113, 12-1
5 -- Grampas, Lonnie Meche, 111, 20-1
6 -- Pyrus, Larry Melancon, 114, 8-1
7 -- Touch of the Blues, Jose Valdivia Jr., 117, 7-2
8 -- Good Journey, Pat Day, 118, 5-2
9 -- Classic Par, Calvin Borel, 114, 12-1
10 -- Strut the Stage, Robby Albarado, 118, 3-1
11 -- Aly's Alley, Jon Court, 116, 12-1