Churchill Downs’ “Downs After Dark” is always a great night of live racing and entertainment, but Saturday’s event may just be the best of the three Downs After Dark programs the track will hold this summer. In addition to live music, drink specials, and Thornton’s Bet or No Bet sweepstakes that party-goers have come to expect at the event, the live racing on tap for the evening includes five graded stakes on the card, one of which is the President of the United Arab Emirates Cup Stakes (G1) for Arabian horses. Additionally, the engraved Kentucky Derby trophy will be presented to Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome’s owners in-between races.
The night includes 11 races, and the stakes action begins with race 6, the Matt Winn (G3) for three-year-olds. Favorites we saw earlier in the year on the Kentucky Derby trail make this race feel like a Kentucky Derby prep race. Steve Asmussen’s Tapiture makes his first start since finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby. He’ll face a field of seven that includes the likes of Conquest Titan, who finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) last out; Almost Famous, who won an allowance race at Churchill Downs May 24 in his last start; and Rise Up, who won the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town by 10 lengths in his last start. Although this lot was unable to make a splash on the Kentucky Derby trail, they look evenly matched to produce an exciting Matt Winn Stakes.
The Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) is the seventh race on the card. This race for fillies and mares pairs Gary Hartlage’s La Troienne (G1) winner On Fire Baby with Bob Baffert’s Ruffian (G2) winner Fiftyshadesofhay. And if those aren’t big enough names, for fun, throw in Kenny McPeek’s graded stakes winning Flashy American, who has finished in the money in six of seven starts at Churchill Downs.
The Stephen Foster (G1) is the feature on the card and is practically a rematch of the Alysheba Stakes (G2) that ran on the Kentucky Derby undercard. The winner of that race, Moonshine Mullin, will have to bring his A-game if he hopes to again win wire-to-wire over the likes of D. Wayne Lukas’s Will Take Charge, Kenny McPeek’s Golden Ticket and Tom Amoss’s Mylute. Todd Pletcher brings Pimlico Special (G3) winner Revolutionary, while Dale Romans sends out the runner-up in that race, Prayer for Relief. Al Stall, Jr. will send Departing, who comes in off a win in a $100,000 optional claiming race, his first start for the year. The Stephen Foster is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Race.