Trainer Todd Pletcher, fresh off his first classic win last week in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), will take some beating in Saturday's $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs as well. Pletcher's pair of Master Command and Magna Graduate figure to be among the most well-bet in the nine-furlong, main track test.
Master Command, like Rags to Riches, is by leading sire A.P. Indy. The 5-year-old is unbeaten this year, having taken the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), and the National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III). Like many of A.P. Indy's offspring, he is getting better with age, and has been assigned highweight of 123 pounds for the Foster. Owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, Master Command became a millionaire earlier this season.
Magna Graduate, Pletcher's other runner, won the Clark Handicap (gr. II) over this layout and distance in 2005. Owned by Elisabeth Alexander, the son of Honor Grades has earned better than $2 million. He runs here off two consecutive wins, in the Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) and the Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III). The seven-time stakes winner has nine victories from 22 starts, and is plenty salty enough to make an impact here.
Arthur Hancock III's Wanderin Boy has won half of his 16 career starts for Nick Zito, most recently proving victorious in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill last month. He has four graded stakes triumphs to his credit, and is a notorious early-speed horse who will be dangerous if the track is kind to frontrunners.
Wiggins brings the most experience to the field. The 7-year-old gelding has faced the started 37 times, and has entered the winner's circle on 16 occasions. He has won two in a row, most recently an allowance contest three weeks ago. Wiggins has nine stakes wins, but is seeking his first graded victory. Dale Romans trains.
Kiaran McLaughlin sends out West Point Thoroughbreds' Flashy Bull, recent winner of the William Donald Schaeffer Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico. He will be making his first Churchill appearance since running 14th in last year's Run for the Roses. He has won three of four this season.
Jonesboro scored his first graded victory in the Essex Handicap (gr. III) in February, but has come up empty in three stakes tries since. Trained by Randy Morse and owned by Michael Langford, Jonesboro is out of Mom's Command, who will be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame this summer. He is a three-time stakes winner, but will have to step up his game here.
New York-based trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. has two entered in the Foster, and both have their work cut out for them. Diamond Stripes, while undefeated in four starts, steps into deeper water here. Owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, the gelded son of Notebook won the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) last October and has but one start on his ledger this year, and allowance score at Aqueduct. Mr. Umphrey might be along here to help his stablemate pacewise. He has three wins in 12 career tries, and was most recently beaten more than 43 lengths in the Met Mile (gr. I).
The field for the Stephen Foster Handicap, in post position order with jockeys and weights:
1) Diamond Stripes (Edgar Prado, 116)
2) Master Command (John Velazquez, 123)
3) Magna Graduate (Garrett Gomez, 118)
4) Mr. Umphrey (Phil Teator, 112)
5) Wiggins (Rafael Bejarano, 114)
6) Wanderin Boy (Corey Nakatani, 120)
7) Flashy Bull (Robby Albarado, 115)
8) Jonesboro (Calvin Borel, 114)