On a quality Churchill Downs card last Saturday, it was definitely a day for the outsiders as none of the big three graded races fell to the well-backed favorites.
Starting with the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, Effinex (3/5) was all the rage to add another graded race to his impressive resume. He broke a little awkwardly but was soon in his stride and tracking the pace but had nothing left in the home stretch and was a well beaten sixth (of seven) at the close. He may just need a break.
In stark contrast, Bradester broke well from stall 2, was leading after two furlongs and was never passed as he gamely held on for a half length win over Eagle with Majestic Harbour just behind in third. In addition to the $303,800 first prize Bradester also gets an expenses paid entry to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, though there have to be doubts as to whether he will stay the mile and a quarter trip.
The Pizza Man (7/5) was well fancied to take the Wise Dan Stakes but also disappointed. He was held well off the pace for much of the race and, though he made some late gains, he was never going to reach the front runners and came in fourth, beaten three lengths. We almost had another tape to wire winner as Kasaqui took them along for much of the race only to be overhauled by Pleuven (15/2) in the dying strides.
There was no let up for backers in the fleur de Lis Handicap as the top two in the market, Untapable (3/5) and Ahh Chocolate (5/2) were both soundly beaten. Paid Up Subscriber took full advantage and was an impressive winner, stalking the pace early on before hitting the front 2 furlongs out and going on to win by an easy 3 lengths.
While there may have been shocks at Churchill Down, Songbird did not let favourite backers down in the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. She was by far the best horse in the race and, once she hit the front midway down the back straight, it was all over and she won by a very cosy 6 ½ lengths. That was her eighth win in as many starts and you wonder where next for this equine superstar. She has nothing left to prove against the fillies of her generation so will we see her take on the boys?