Perfect Drift, Southern Image Top Foster Noms

(from Churchill Downs report)
Defending winner Perfect Drift, 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Funny Cide, Pimlico Special (gr. I) victor Southern Image, and Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) hero Peace Rules head a stellar group of 21 horses nominated to the 23rd running of Churchill Downs' $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) on June 12.

The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up is the centerpiece of "Stephen Foster Super Saturday," a racing program that includes six stakes with record total purses of $1.85 million. Two of the day's races -– the Stephen Foster and the $400,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares ages 3 and up - will be televised nationally as part of the first broadcast of the "NTRA Super Saturday" series on ESPN.

Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift, trained by Murray Johnson and ridden by Pat Day, upset eventual "Horse of the Year" Mineshaft in last year's memorable running of the Stephen Foster. He is training at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center with a goal of becoming the third horse to win back-to-back renewals of the Foster. The 5-year-old Dynaformer gelding has a record of 9-4-1 in 20 races and has earned $2,244,088.

Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide enjoyed the greatest moment of his career when he won the 129th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in 2003. He went on to earn an Eclipse Award as America's top 3-year-old and would become the first Derby winner to compete in the Foster since Silver Charm, who finished second in 1998 and ended his career with a fourth-place finish in the race the following year.

Southern Image, owned by Blahut Stables LLC, Kegele Brothers, Tepper, Allen and others, has quickly emerged as one of America's top handicap stars with victories this year in the Pimlico Special and Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). Trained by Michael Machowsky, the 4-year-old son of Halo's Image is unbeaten in four races this year, has won six of seven career starts and earned $1,681,600.

Edmund Gann's Peace Rules, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bobby Frankel, ran third to Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, but reversed that result in this year's New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at the Fair Grounds. He won the Oaklawn Handicap in his most recent outing to improve his career record to 8-2-2 in 16 races and boosted his earnings to $2,739,990.

Other stakes stars nominated to the Stephen Foster include William S. Farish's Midway Road, winner of the Ben Ali (gr. III) and runner-up in the Pimlico Special, and Charles Cella's Crafty Shaw, winner of the Hanshin Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington Park. Congrats, Newfoundland, Olmodavor, Ole Faunty, Seattle Fitz, Sir Cherokee, Bowman's Band and Devil Time are also nominated.

Three-year-old star Purge, winner of the Peter Pan (gr. II) and a possible starter in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 5, was also nominated.