William S. Farish's homebred Mineshaft, winner of the Pimlico Special (gr. I), and Flaxman Holdings' Aldebaran, winner of the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) and Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) in his last two races, top the list of likely starters from a star-studded group of 32 horses nominated for Churchill Downs' $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). The 1 1/8-mile handicap for 3-year-olds and up is June 14 and will be televised live by CBS Sports as part of the "NTRA Summer Racing Tour." The race is the centerpiece of "Stephen Foster Super Saturday," a day of racing that includes three other stakes events and stakes purses that total a record $1.35 million. The second richest day of stakes competition at Churchill Downs, it also includes the $300,000-added Fleur De Lis (gr. II) for fillies and mares 3 & up; the $200,000-added Regret (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies on the turf; and the $100,000 Northern Dancer for 3-year-olds at a mile. Mineshaft, a son of A.P. Indy trained by Neil Howard, looms as the likely favorite if he starts in the Stephen Foster. The Churchill Downs-based colt started his career in England under trainer John Gosden, but has won six of seven races since he was moved to the U.S. and placed in Howard's care. The Pimlico Special was his third consecutive stakes victory, a string that also includes the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at the Fair Grounds and the Ben Ali (gr. III) at Keeneland. Aldebaran hails from the sizzling stable of Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and would be seeking his first stakes victory at a distance beyond a mile if he runs in the Stephen Foster. A victory in the Foster would make the Kentucky-bred son of Mr. Prospector the first horse to sweep the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) and the Stephen Foster, the Spring Meet's top dirt races for older horses. Others nominated to the Stephen Foster include New Phoenix Stable's Sarava, winner of the 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I); Stonerside Stable's Carter Handicap (gr. I) winner Congaree; Starlight Stable's Harlan's Holiday, winner of the Donn Handicap (gr. I) and runner-up in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I); Michael Tabor's San Antonio Breeders' Cup (gr. II) winner Pass Rush; Theresa McArthur and Carolyn Chapman's Western Pride, runner-up in the Pimlico Special; Charles Cella's Clark Handicap (gr. II) runner-up Crafty Shaw; Donamire Farm's Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) winner Twilight Road; and Buckram Oak Farm's Ben Ali runner-up American Style.
Other expected starters in the Stephen Foster include the 2-3 finishers in last year's Kentucky Derby: Robert Baker, David Cornstein and William Mack's Proud Citizen and Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift.
Other horses considered "possible" starters among the Stephen Foster Handicap nominees include Fog City Stable and Padua Stable's Full Mandate, winner of the Black Tie Affair Stakes at Arlington Park; Lakeside Farm's Colonial Colony, fourth to Mineshaft in the Pimlico Special; and Billy Hays' Slider.