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Successful Dan winning the 2012 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 32nd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap features the winners of both the 2012 and 2011 editions of the race. Ron the Greek is one of the two, having won last year’s Foster and entering this year’s race after missing a victory by just a half-length in the $1 million Charles Town Classic Stakes in his most recent effort. The other is Pool Play, the 2011 Foster winner who has run poorly in his last two races following a fine 2013 debut when he came a neck short of winning the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes. Three of the other four entrants come into the Foster off strong wins, led by Alysheba Stakes winner (at Churchill Downs) Take Charge Indy. Successful Dan won the Ben Ali Stakes in April at Keeneland when returning from nearly 10 months off and won last year’s Alysheba in his second start back from a layoff, so he is another who could win. Golden Ticket earned a dead-heat win in the Travers Stakes last summer and is another entering the Foster off a big win on this track last month. Fort Larned, the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year finalist, has run twice this year with no success, although it must be noted that in his first start of the year he did stumble badly and lose his jockey. After an eighth-place finish in last year’s Foster, Fort Larned won three of four graded stakes including the Classic, so he could snap back to top form at any time.

Successful Dan, a half-brother (sharing the same dam) to 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan, has only raced 12 times in his career. However, with eight victories in those 12 starts and only finishing worse than third one time in his career, Successful Dan has proven to bring his “A” game every time he hits the track. Successful Dan returned from a 10-month hiatus in April and won the Ben Ali Stakes rather easily then was flattered when the runner-up (Boisterous) won a Grade 2 stakes in his next start. Last year, Successful Dan returned from a similar layoff in April to win -  just like he did recently - then in his second start of 2012 he improved to win the Alysheba Stakes with a career-best 115 Equibase Speed Figure, one point higher than the 114 figure effort Ron the Greek needed to win the Foster last year. With a lot of improving to do in his second start off the rest and already proven to like the main track at Churchill Downs, where he has three wins from four races, Successful Dan is the one to beat.

Ron the Greek ran one of the best races of his career in his most recent race. Even though he finished third in the Charles Town Classic to multiple graded stakes winner Game On Dude, Ron the Greek was only beaten a half-length and earned a strong 122 Equibase Speed Figure that was only one point short of the 123 figure he earned twice earlier in his career, one of those efforts coming this past January when winning the Sunshine Millions Classic by a whopping 11 ¼ lengths. Last year, Ron the Greek won the Foster following a second-place finish in the Oaklawn Handicap and as he enters this year’s race off a similar effort it would be no surprise if he became a repeat winner of this race. 


Ronthe Greek Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Take Charge Indy regained winning form last month in the Alysheba Stakes following five losing races in a row since he stormed onto the 2012 Road to the Derby scene with a win in the Florida Derby last spring. Jockey Rosie Napravnik has been aboard Take Charge Indy for his last two races, first when riding him to a runner-up effort in the Skip Away Stakes in March then to that 6-length victory over this track last month. Last November, Take Charge Indy finished second in the Clark Handicap, the similar race to the Foster run each fall at Churchill Downs. In the Clark, Take Charge Indy earned a career-best 118 Equibase Speed Figure. With improvement likely off the 112 figure effort put forth in the Alysheba, Take Charge Indy is yet another with a strong possibility to win the Stephen Foster Handicap.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Fort Larned (125 from 2012 Whitney Invitational Handicap), Golden Ticket (106 from 2012 Travers Stakes) and Pool Play (114 from Hal’s Hope Stakes in January). 

My Selections:

Successful Dan

Ron the Greek

Take Charge Indy

$500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap

Saturday, Churchill Downs, Race 8, 9:39 p.m. ET

1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and older







Golden Ticket

J. Rosario


K McPeek


Fort Larned

B.J. Hernandez Jr.


I Wilkes


Ron the Greek

J. Lezcano


W I Mott


Take Charge Indy

R. Napravnik


P Byrne


Pool Play

M. Mena


M Casse


Successful Dan

J. Leparoux


C LoPresti


Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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