Downs After Dark returns to Churchill Downs Saturday with the “White Party” and a night of graded stakes action including the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. In addition to the high-caliber live racing that includes five graded stakes races, guests can dance to the live music in the new paddock plaza, participate in the “Bet or No Bet” sweepstakes, sample special food and drink offerings, and witness the Kentucky Derby trophy presentation.
The Stephen Foster card has always offered a great day of racing and now, for the second year in a row, the stakes races will be held under lights. The 11-race card begins with a first post of 6 p.m. and includes five graded stakes races.
The Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap for fillies and mares starts the stakes action and includes defending champ and reigning Eclipse Champion Older Female, Royal Delta. The Bill Mott trainee has not raced since finishing 10th in the Dubai World Cup in Meydan Mar. 30. Belmont Stakes winning jockey Mike Smith will be in town for the ride. Royal Delta will face a short field of four competitors including Wine Princess, the Monmouth Oaks winner.
The Grade III Matt Winn for three-year-olds boasts some early Kentucky Derby contenders including Mark Casse’s Kentucky Jockey Club winner Uncaptured, Bob Baffert’s Risen Star runner-up Code West, and Dale Romans’ Dewey Square.
The featured race on the card is the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap for three-year-olds and up. This is a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ race. Successful Dan, a half-brother to Horse of the Year Wise Dan, has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. He’ll face five competitors; including Ian Wilkes’ Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned and defending Stephen Foster champ Ron the Greek. Although Ron the Greek finished nearly 12 lengths behind Fort Larned in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, he beat Fort Larned by nearly the same margin in last year’s Stephen Foster. (Click here  for a full analysis of this race).
The Grade III Regret for three-year-old fillies includes Bernie Flint’s Kentucky Oaks ninth-place finisher Seaneen Girl and Edgewood winner Kitten’s Dumplings. The field of 11 runners will tackle the 1 1/8 mile route over the turf course.
The stakes action concludes with the Grade 1 United Arab Emirates Cup for Arabians. The race first ran on the Stephen Foster undercard in 2011 when TM Fred Texas took the 1 ¼ mile race by 9 ¼ lengths. This year’s edition will be run at 1 1/16 miles and under the bright lights. It will be the second Arabian race ever run at Churchill Downs.
The “White Party” encourages guests to ‘dress to impress’ in all white attire and dance amidst the elegance of white rose draping, palms, and crystal chandeliers. Live entertainment hits the Plaza Stage beginning at 4 p.m. with the Indiana-based band Pawnshop Guitar. Off the Hook, a cover band from Ohio, takes the stage at 8:45 p.m. and continues until midnight. Also on track to entertain is Tony and the Tanlines on the fifth floor balcony of the Clubhouse and a DJ at Gate 17.
Bet or No Bet Sweepstakes
Back again is the Bet or No Bet Sweepstakes sponsored by Thortons. Guests can text a code to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to take a $100 Thortons gift card or place a $1,000 win wager on the upcoming race. Four lucky fans will make the choice during races 6 through 9.
Kentucky Derby Trophy Presentation
Although it’s been six weeks since Orb won the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown series is now complete, the engraved trophies have not yet been presented to the winning connections. After race 4, about 7:25 p.m., the engraved trophies will be presented to the Kentucky Derby winning trainer, jockey, and owner. Trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III and jockey Joel Rosario will be on hand to accept their trophies. Daisy Phipps Pulito, the daughter of Ogden “Dinny” Phipps, will accept the trophy on behalf of owners Phipps Stables and Stuart Janney III. Also scheduled to attend is Walker Hancock, son of Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock. Orb was bred and raised on the Paris, Ky. farm that has produced ten Kentucky Derby winners.
PEB Mural Painting
If you can come out to Churchill Downs early Saturday, you can get a glimpse of famed artist Pierre “PEB” Bellocq adding the image of trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III to the wall mural of winning trainers and adding the image of jockey Joel Rosario to the wall mural of winning jockeys, both located on the second floor of the clubhouse near the food court and betting windows. PEB is scheduled to work on the additions from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with the first post at 6 p.m. Admission is $10 and children under 12 are free. No one under age 18 will be admitted to the track unless accompanied by a parent or adult. Free parking is available in the Longfield lot on a first-come first-served basis. Additional free parking will be available at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with free round-trip shuttle service beginning at 5 p.m.
Photo: Courtesy Churchill Downs