James Tafel's 4-year-old gelding Unshaded returned to the races Thursday for the first time since winning the Travers Stakes (gr. I) last August, winning a Churchill Downs allowance race by 1 1/2 lengths. Unshaded, who had been sidelined by a tendon injury, completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.11 under Robby Albarado.
"He did everything professional today," trainer Carl Nafzger said. "I worried about the paddock. I worried about the post parade and whether he'd get anxious. But he did everything just right. It was just a refresher course, so we're on our way now. We should have a good year now. He should run good."
Nafzger indicated the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. II, June 16) as the next likely start for the son of Unbridled. Also expected for the 1 1/8-mile race is Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Captain Steve.
"I needed a race bad," Nafzger said Friday. "I had told Mr. Tafel that if we didn't get a race between now and then we were going to ship, because we're not running in the Stephen Foster like this. We'd have gotten beat eight, nine, or 10 lengths by Captain Steve today. And I don't know if we can beat Captain Steve, but we've got to have everything right to even contest him. I don't know who else is coming in, but they're both here."
Da Devil finished second in the allowance race, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Neon Shadow, who tired after setting the early fractions. Phil the Grip, Kings Command, and Certain completed the order of finish.
"He just galloped onto the backside with me, then he just ranged up to them and was well within himself," said Albarado, who will ride Unshaded in the Foster. "He got a little late, but that was to be expected. He went on and finished up well and it was a good test for him. He got a good, strong race under him and that's what was important." (Chart, Equibase