Morton Fink's Guided Tour rallied in the stretch to upset 7-10 favorite Captain Steve in Saturday's $831,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. II), winning the Churchill feature by a half-length. Guided Tour earned $515,220 for the win to push his career earnings well past the $1-million mark.
Duckhorn was left alone on the lead early on, building a 4 1/2 length lead after a half-mile in :46.92. Captain Steve tracked the leader from second position and had moved to within a length of Duckhorn after six furlongs run in 1:10.70. Guided Tour was three lengths back in fifth at this point as jockey Larry Melancon began to rally the 5-year-old son of Hansel. As Captain Steve collared Duckhorn, Melancon swung the Guided Tour to the outside and the gelding rallied to catch Captain Steve in deep stretch, completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.74 on a fast track.
"This horse runs hard everytime and I knew he was going to eventually run a big race like this," said Melancon. "This is the biggest win in my career. I don't care if it's Grade 1, 2 or 3, this is a $750,000 race, and winning at my home track makes it even more special When I was turning for home I thought I got a chance to win it, and at the eighth pole I thought, I'm going to win it."
Brahms finished third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Captain Steve. Duckhorn, Unshaded, Da Devil, Jadada, and Graeme Hall completed the order of finish.
Guided Tour was bred by Woodlyn Farm and is trained by Niall O'Callaghan. The win is the 10th in 27 career starts for Guided Tour and his second graded stakes win of the year. In February, Guided Tour shipped to California to win the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II). As a 4-year-old, he won the Hall of Fame Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) on a sloppy track at Thistledown before finishing second in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II).
Guided Tour returned $33.40, $8.60, and $4.40 for the win. Captain Steve paid $2.80 and $2.20. Brahms was worth $3.20 to show. The winning exacta returned $69.60.
"I told Jerry (Bailey) that (Captain Steve) was going to be a little short because I sort of rushed him into it," said trainer Bob Baffert. "So he tried to preserve as much as possible and it showed up that last little part. That was guts there, holding up at the end. At the sixteenth pole I could tell he was tired. He was ready to go a mile and a sixteenth."
In the day's three other stakes races:
-- the Baffert-trained Saudi Poetry won the $300,000 Fleur de Lis (gr. III) for fillies and mares by covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.27 with Victor Espinoza aboard.
-- 24-1 longshot Compendium held off favored Meetyouatthebrig to win the $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap for 3-year-olds. The winner completed the mile in 1:34.78.
-- Casual Feat, with Melanchon aboard, won the $150,000 Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) on good turf, with Amaretta second and favored La Vida Loca third. (Charts, Equibase