Thoroughbred Daily News
Speightstown - Dance Swiftly, by Danzig - WinStar Farm
WinStar Farm - Versailles, KY | 2012 | Entered Stud 2017 | 2019 Fee $10,000

Competitive Cast Assembled for Foster

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Gift Box | Benoit Photo

By Brian DiDonato

A diverse group of 12 older males line up Saturday night for the GII Stephen Foster S. at Churchill Downs, which carries a “Win and You’re In” ticket to the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic. The race likely goes through Hronis Racing’s Gift Box (Twirling Candy), who invades from California off a trio of stellar outings  since changing hands. Sold privately and transferred from Chad Brown to John Sadler off an 8 3/4-length Aqueduct optional claiming romp last March, he resurfaced to defeat the star-crossed Battle of Midway (Smart Strike) in the GII San Antonio S. at Santa Anita on the day after Christmas. He upended another formidable foe in MGISW McKinzie (Street Sense) to take the GI Santa Anita H. by a nose Apr. 6, but was upset himself by Vino Rosso (Curlin) in the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita May 27. Despite the defeat, he earned a career-best 105 Beyer for that last effort–a repeat of that number seems very likely to get the job done here. While in the past there has been talk of Sadler runners failing to show up with their best outside of Southern California, the exploits of last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) and last Friday’s GII True North S. winner Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags) for the same owner should have done plenty to allay those concerns. Nolo Contesto (Pioneerof the Nile) could provide another barometer in the GIII Matt Winn S. a few races earlier.

Tom’s d’Etat (Smart Strike) and Seeking the Soul (Perfect Soul {Ire}) finished second and third, respectively, behind the aforementioned and impressive McKinzie in the GII Alysheba S. here May 3. McKinzie was a tough-trip second in a blockbuster running of the GI Metropolitan H. last week in New York. Tom’s d’Etat, previously ninth in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S., set the pace last time but appears to have some speed to his inside here.

Seeking the Soul annexed the GI Clark H. over track and trip in 2017, and was second in the Pegasus before finishing eighth in the G1 Dubai World Cup behind Met Mile third Thunder Snow (Ire) (Helmet {Aus}). The added sixteenth he’ll get to work with here should certainly improve his chances, and he fired a :59 2/5 bullet (1/15) over the strip June 7. “He’s really been bouncing around perfectly over this track,” trainer Dallas Stewart told the Churchill notes team. “He was doing so well after the Dubai World Cup that we ran him in the Alysheba as a prep for the Stephen Foster. He ran good that day, but I think he can do much better in the Foster.”

Other logical contenders for the Foster include dual-surface Grade I winner and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Yoshida (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn})–last seen finishing sixth in Dubai; the overlapping ownership group’s GII Oaklawn H. winner and ‘Rising Star’ Quip (Distorted Humor); and 2018 GII Jim Dandy winner and May 17 GIII Pimlico Special S. scorer Tenfold (Curlin).

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