A mid-year clash of top-level handicap runners is in store Saturday at Churchill Downs as Congaree, third-place finisher in last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) faces off against Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Street Cry in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
The top two highweights in the Foster, Congaree at 121 pounds and Street Cry at 120 pounds, will face six rivals in the 1 1/8-mile race over the main track. After building stronger and stronger fields over the last few years, the Foster carries grade I status for the first time.
Congaree, owned by Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable has made but one start since finishing third in last year's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Trainer Bob Baffert tuned up the son of Arazi, out of the Mari's Book mare Mari's Sheba with a convincing win in the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III). Sent off at 4-5 in Texas, Congaree didn't disappoint, winning the 1 1/16-mile race by two lengths under Pat Day. Day, Churchill Downs' all-time leading rider, will return in the saddle and break Congaree from the rail.
Godolphin's Street Cry, who was third in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, was on target for last year's Kentucky Derby after the winning the UAE Two Thousand Guineas and running second in the UAE Derby (UAE-III), but an injury the week of the race forced him to the sidelines. He did make one start in the U.S., finishing second in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in late Oct. This year, the Irish-bred son of Machiavellian, out of the Troy mare, Helen Street, won both the Maktoum Challenge-Round 3 (UAE-II) and the World Cup. He has been training in New York since April and shipped to Kentucky on Thursday. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, he will be ridden for the first time by Jerry Bailey. Street Cry drew post 4.
The Foster is by no means a two-horse race. Tenpins, winner of the William Donald Schaeffer Handicap (gr. III) on the Preakness undercard, and 2000 Travers (gr. I) winner Unshaded are next in the weights at 115 pounds. Tenpins, bred and owned by Joseph Vitello and trained by Donald Winfree, won his first stakes in the Schaeffer, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Bowman's Band while going the Foster distance. The chestnut son of Smart Strike will break from post 2 under Craig Perret. James Tafel's Unshaded, trained by Carl Nafzger, will be ridden by Jon Court. The gelding will break from post 7.
The Foster will be shown live on CBS during a special broadcast Saturday afternoon from 5-6 p.m. EDT. A special Pick 3 will be offered with the other two televised races: the Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II) and the Dallas Turf Cup from Lone Star Park.
Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), 1 1/8 miles, dirt
PP Horse Weight Jockey
1 Congaree 121 Pat Day
2 Tenpins 115 Craig Perret
3 Connected 112 Larry Melancon
4 Street Cry 120 Jerry Bailey
5 Proper Man 110 Jorge Chavez
6 Dollar Bill 114 Mark Guidry
7 Unshaded 115 Jon Court
8 Parade Leader 113 Calvin Borel