Photo: Hodges Photography
The Lecomte (G3), the Risen Star (G2), the New Orleans Classic (G2) and most recently the Blame. That’s quite a list of second-place finishes. If you were his trainer, what would you do differently for the Grade 2, $750,000 Stephen Foster on July 2 at Churchill Downs?
“We’re going to have (Joel) Rosario riding him,” Proxy’s trainer Mike Stidham said over the phone on Tuesday. “I think he’ll fit him well because Rosario is good at getting those horses who make a late run up in time.”
With Rosario replacing Luis Saez after a troubled-trip second in the local-prep Blame Stakes, this will be the tenacious 4-year-old closer’s third pilot in five 2022 starts.
“We were real pleased with his latest effort,” Stidham said. “He made that belated run to be second. We were overall happy with the effort, and hopefully it can culminate in winning the big one. I think it depends on how the pace sets up for him.”
And that’s the twist. With Bill Mott adding Olympiad, only three entries are confirmed. Not a front-runner among them.
Mandaloun has been waiting to know how steep his company will be.
Trainer Brad Cox announced last Friday that Juddmonte’s Mandaloun will make his second start on the Churchill track in the Stephen Foster. His first came in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, which he was named the winner of after Medina Spirit’s subsequent disqualification.
After the Derby, Mandaloun went on to win the Pegasus Stakes and the Haskell (G1), both at Monmouth Park, and then in his 4-year-old debut, he beat Midnight Bourbon in the Louisiana stakes (G3). Taking that win streak to the Middle East, the Into Mischief colt finished ninth in the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) after getting cooked by pressing the pace.
“Everyone who was near the front that day finished up the track. We’re just gonna draw a line through the last one,” Cox said. “I think back around two turns is going to fit him. I expect him to return to form and we’ll see the Mandaloun we saw in the Derby and the Louisiana.”
Olympiad is aug.
“The plan is to run in the Stephen Foster,” Mott said over the phone. “He breezed (Tuesday) morning at Saratoga; he went very well. I’m very happy with him.”
A perfect, four-win, 4-year-old campaign will be on the line. His talent has been well-documented by his Mineshaft (G3) and New Orleans Classic (G2) wins at Fair Grounds this winter. In his last race of him, the Alysheba (G2), he showed his grit when battling back after Happy Saver passed him in the stretch. And pouring it on from there, Olympiad gained momentum with every stretch run stride.
“He ran well over the Churchill track,” Mott said. “We saw (his ability to open up in the stretch) in the last race, and we hope he can continue it.”
The more ground you give Olympiad the more room he has to open up. It takes him a while to get into his nice rhythm, but then after that it’s over.
Militarist is likely for the Foster. Americanrevolution’s name keeps coming up.
Though Todd Pletcher was not available to confirm. After his fourth-place finish in the Blame, Pletcher kept the 2021 Cigar Mile winner at Churchill, breezing four furlongs in 48.4 seconds on June 17, so let’s think about this race with him in it. Otherwise, who would we put in the lead?
Not that American revolution is a front-runner, but he is the only horse of the five who has led at the first call in his career.
Last throughout in the Blame, Militarist is expected to try these foes again. Carlo Vaccarezza’s 5-year-old is another late-runner, finishing second in a second-level allowance on Derby Day behind Candy Tycoon and fourth in the 2021 Clark at Churchill.
The Stephen Foster is a “win and you’re in” event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.