William S. Farish's Midway Road will remain at Churchill Downs to participate in Saturday's 23rd running of the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). The field is also expected to include Southern Image, Peace Rules, and Perfect Drift.
The 1 1/8-mile race is the centerpiece of "Stephen Foster Super Saturday," a collection of six major stakes races with purses of $1.85 million. It is the second richest day of stakes competition at Churchill Downs, trailing only Kentucky Derby (gr. I) day.
Farish and trainer Neil Howard had also been looking strongly at Saturday's $250,000-added Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) for Midway Road, who was a strong runner-up to Stephen Foster rival Southern Image in the Pimlico Special (gr. I). But they decided to stay home and take on Southern Image on their home track at Churchill Downs.
"We didn't want to be in a mad rush to run against Southern Image again," said Howard. "But in light of the way the horse has been training, maintaining his weight and the way he's been doing, we thought maybe if there was ever a chance to be successful against him it could be here. He's doing so well now and with the addition of the home court advantage, which you can make as much or as little of that as you want, we felt that this might be the time to go ahead and take the chance."
Regular jockey Robby Albarado will ride Midway Road, who will attempt to do what celebrated stablemate Mineshaft could not accomplish in last year's Stephen Foster.
Mineshaft, the eventual Horse of the Year, co-owned by Farish, trained by Howard, and ridden by Albarado, was upset in the 2003 Foster by Perfect Drift.
Midway Road comes into the Stephen Foster off a pair of good efforts. He scored a track record-setting 11 1/4-length victory in the Ben Ali (gr. III) at Keeneland and followed that effort with his runner-up effort in the Pimlico Special. The 4-year-old son of Jade Hunter
, who finished second to Funny Cide in last year's Preakness (gr. I), has a career record of 4-2-2 in 12 races and has earned $518,085.
Southern Image, the likely favorite for the Stephen Foster, was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs late Tuesday morning following a flight from California. Peace Rules, Edmund Gann's winner of the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) this year and a two-time grade I winner as a 3-year-old for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, is scheduled to arrive from New York this afternoon.
Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift jogged and galloped lightly under exercise rider Michael Bowlds over a "fast" surface at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center. The 5-year-old Dynaformer
gelding breezed on Saturday for trainer Murray Johnson.
"He's very happy," said Johnson. "We're ready for the big race again."
Others listed as possible for the Foster include Best Minister and Colonial Colony.