The June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. II) may have picked up two more starters when the connections of Da Devil and Connected declared their horses will likely be entered in the 1 1/8-mile Churchill Downs event.
A 4-year-old Twining colt, Connected has yet to win a stakes race, but he does have an affinity for the Churchill Downs strip. The David Carroll trainee won a Churchill allowance by 3 3/4 lengths in his most recent start to improve to three wins from four lifetime starts on the main track at Churchill.
"He loves the racetrack," Carroll said. "We're here and it's a huge pot, so we'd like to take a shot at it."
In February, he came home second in the Whirlaway Handicap at Fair Grounds, finishing two lengths behind subsequent Pimlico Special (gr. I) and Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II) winner Include.
"Larry (Melancon, his jockey) felt that day that if he'd had a little better trip, we might have won it," said Carroll. "Now Include has gone on to great things since then, but he was a quality horse then, too. And my guy can run a big race on a given day."
Da Devil will be seeking his second graded II win in the Foster. After upsetting subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Cat Thief in the 1999 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II), Da Devil finished fifth in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. III) and won a Churchill allowance before suffering an injury in the Clark Handicap (gr. II). The injury prevented him from racing in 2000 and the 6-year-old Leo Castelli gelding is winless in five starts since reemerging in February. In his most recent start, Da Devil finished second to likely Foster starter Unshaded in a Churchill allowance race.
A notoriously slow worker, Da Devil breezed five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 on June 3. "That's a big work for him," trainer Forrest Kaelin said. "He don't usually work much. He worked five-eighths in 1:05 before he won the race up at Turfway (the Kentucky Cup Classic)."
Da Devil finished sixth in the 1999 Stephen Foster Handicap, won by Victory Gallop.
Unshaded had what trainer Carl Nafzger called his "major" work Thursday, breezing five furlongs in 1:00 flat on a track rated "good."
"He worked good," Nafzger said of the Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner. "He got a little bored at the end of it. The track got a little sloppy. It wasn't slick, but it wasn't the best. It wasn't as tight as it's been."
The work was the second of the week for Unshaded, who also breezed four furlongs in :48 2/5 on Monday.
Jockey Robby Albarado was aboard for Thursday's work. "I thought it was a great move for him and it was much-needed," said Albarado , who was aboard Unshaded in his recent win and will ride him in the Foster. "His stride is deceiving, because you think you're not going anywhere and you're covering so much ground. He's such a comfortable horse."
Nafzger said Unshaded will work once more before the Foster. "The next week will be my 'adjustment' work," he said. "That's the way I always train and as long he keeps happy, we'll be there."
Captain Steve, the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner and likely Foster favorite, is scheduled to work at Churchill on Monday morning.