Fields set for G1 Stephen Foster card at Ellis Park

Stakes previews by Kevin Kerstein (Photo of Smile Happy winning G2 Alysheba. Coady/Churchill Downs photo):

HENDERSON, Ky. (Saturday, June 24, 2023) – Lucky Seven Stable’s multiple graded stakes-winning colt Smile Happy headlines an accomplished field of eight older horses that entered Saturday’s 42nd running of the Grade I, $1 million Stephen Foster at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

          Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Stephen Foster will go as Race 10 of 11 at 4:26 p.m. (all times Central). First post is 11:45 a.m. The Stephen Foster is the centerpiece of a six pack of stakes events Saturday at Ellis Park. The other featured races on the program are the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), the $400,000 Wise Dan (GII), the $225,000 American Derby (Listed), the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed) and the $225,000 Tepin.

          Smile Happy won his second-career Grade II contest on Kentucky Oaks Day when he powered home to a two-length score in the $600,000 Alysheba (GII). As a 2-year-old, Smile Happy was victorious in the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) before he tested the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The son of Runhappy qualified for Kentucky Derby 148 but finished eighth behind Rich Strike. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Smile Happy’s 4-year-old resume includes an allowance victory and a third-place finish in the Oaklawn Mile (GIII). Jockey Corey Lanerie will have the mount aboard Smile Happy in the Stephen Foster and the duo will break from post No. 5.

          Another top entrant in the Stephen Foster is Smile Happy’s stablemate Rattle N Roll. Also owned by the Mackin Family’s Lucky Seven Stables, Rattle N Roll won the $225,000 Blame Stakes (GIII) in his most recent start. Prior to his 1 ¼-length score in the Blame, Rattle N Roll was victorious in the Pimlico Special (GIII) and Ben Ali Stakes (GIII). Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who has been aboard both Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll in their most recent starts, will have the mount from post 4.

          Godolphin’s Grade I winner Proxy will ship in to Ellis Park for the Stephen Foster. Trained by Mike Stidham, Proxy narrowly got by Last Samurai to win the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) in late April. Among Proxy’s other accolades in his career includes a three-quarters of a length win in last fall’s Clark Stakes presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs. The well-traveled Proxy has five career wins from 16 starts and has banked earnings of $1,775,970. Joel Rosariowill ride Proxy and break from the rail.

          Steve Moger’s Stilleto Boy achieved Grade I glory two starts ago in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI). The speedy son of Shackleford is based in California for trianer Ed Moger Jr. but has traveled to tracks throughout the country including Oaklawn, Prairie Meadows and Gulfstream Park. Stilleto Boy was the pacesetter in the Oaklawn Handicap but could not hold off Proxy and Last Samurai. Among the other notable victories in Stilleto Boy’s include the 2021 Iowa Derby and the 2022 California Stakes (GII). Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux will make the journey from California to Henderson for the mount and break from post 2.

          Another horse that could show speed in the Stephen Foster is Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power. Trained by Brad Cox, West Will Power dueled on the lead in the Alysheba but gave way late to Smile Happy. Prior to the Alysheba, West Will Power dominated six rivals by 4 ¾ lengths in the New Orleans Classic (GII) at Fair Grounds. Jockey Flavien Prat will ride the six-time winner from post 6.

          Here is the complete field for the Stephen Foster Stakes from the rail out (with jockey and trainer):

          1. Proxy (Rosario, Stidham)

          2. Stilleto Boy (Desormeaux, Moger)

          3. Speed Bias (Luis Saez, Ron Moquett)

          4. Rattle N Roll (Hernandez, McPeek)

          5. Smile Happy (Lanerie, McPeek)

          6. West Will Power (Prat, Cox)

          7. Last Samurai (Cristian Torres, Wayne Lukas)

          8. Happy American (James Graham, Neil Pessin)

The Stephen Foster is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). The winner of the Stephen Foster will receive an automatic entry to the 2023 running of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and have their pre-entry and entry fees waved along with a travel stipend if they are traveling outside the state of California. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held at Santa Anita on Nov. 3-4.

          Fans can watch and wager on Stephen Foster Day on, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Incorporated. The Ellis Park simulcast signal will feature expert handicappers Scott Shapiro and Kaitlin Free in the studio along with live interviews and analysis from Ellis Park by Joe Kristufek.

          The entire Stephen Foster Day card will be broadcast on FanDuel TV and the FanDuel TV+ app. Live on-site coverage will begin Friday with Caleb Keller. He’ll be joined Saturday and Sunday by Todd SchruppGabby GaudetScott Hazleton and Caton Bredar.

          For more information about Stephen Foster Day, visit

VETERAN SET PIECE SEEKS SECOND VICTORY IN GRADE II, $400,000 WISE DAN – Juddmonte’s 7-year-old homebred Set Piece (GB) was victorious two years ago in the $400,000 Wise Dan Stakes (GII) and will attempt for a repeat score in Saturday’s 34th running of the 1 1/16-mile turf contest.

          The Wise Dan Stakes was carded as Race 9 of 11 with a post time of 3:55 p.m. (all times Central). Saturday’s stellar Stephen Foster Day program features six stakes contests headlined by the $1 million Stephen Foster (GI) as Race 10. The other stakes events on the program are the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), the $225,000 American Derby (Listed), the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed) and the $225,000 Tepin.

          Set Piece, trained by Brad Cox, arrived stateside in 2020 and has since been victorious in seven stakes contests including the 2021 Wise Dan. Set Piece’s seven-year-old campaign began on Thurby at Churchill Downs when he finished third in the $300,000 Opening Verse (Listed). One month later he returned in the $225,000 Arlington Stakes (GIII) where he rallied from six lengths off the pace to beat Get Smokin by one-length. Jockey Florent Geroux, who has ridden Set Piece in 14 of his 27 lifetime starts, will have the return call in the Wise Dan and break from post No. 8.

          Get Smokin will attempt to avenge his last race against Set Piece in the Wise Dan. Owned by Ironhorse Racing StableBlackRidge StablesT-NT Equine Holdings and Saratoga SevenRacing Partners, Get Smokin is a multiple graded stakes winner for trainer Mark Casse. Among the accolades on Get Smokin’s resume includes victories in the Hill Prince (GII) and Tampa Bay Stakes (GIII). Get Smokin will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. from post 4.

          Here is the complete field from the rail out (with jockey and trainer):

          1. Harlan Estate (Declan Cannon, Whit Beckman)

          2. Tut’s Revenge (Francisco Arrieta, Shea Stuart)

          3. Camp Hope (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek)       

          4. Get Smokin (Santana, Casse)

          5. Play Action Pass (Tyler Gaffaione, Robert Medina)

          6. Kittansett (Cristian Torres, Paulo Lobo)

          7. Cowboy Justice (GB) (James Graham, Conor Murphy)

          8. Set Piece (GB) (Geroux, Cox)

          9. Stitched (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Gregory Foley)

          10. Hozier (Julien Leparoux, Rodolphe Brisset)

GRADE I WINNER A MO REAY TOPS COMPETATIVE FIELD IN GRADE II, $400,000 FLEUR DE LIS – Hunter Valley Farm’s Grade I-winning filly A Mo Reay heads a compact field of seven fillies and mares entered in the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (Grade II) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

          The 1 1/16-mile Fleur de Lis was slated as Race 8 of 11 with a post time of 3:22 p.m. (all times Central). The fantastic program from Ellis Park is headlined by the $1 million Stephen Foster (GI). The other supporting stakes are the $400,000 Wise Dan (GII), the $225,000 American Derby (Listed), the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing and the $225,000 Tepin. First post is 11:45 a.m.

          Trained by Brad Cox, A Mo Reay achieved her greatest glory two starts ago in the Beholder Mile (GI) at Santa Anita. Other top victories on A Mo Reay’s resume include the Bayacoa (GIII) and Pago Hop. Overall, A Mo Reay sports a solid record of 13-5-1-3 with $728,275 in purse earnings. Jockey Flavien Prat will have the mount from post No. 6.

          Other notable entrants in the Fleur de Lis include Kaleem Shah’s multiple graded stakes placed BellamoreStonestreet Stables’ Grade I winner Pauline’s Pearl and Farfellow Farms’ two-time stakes winner Moon Swag.

          Here is the complete field for the Fleur de Lis from the rail out (with jockey and trainer):

          1. Bellamore (Martin Garcia, Simon Callaghan)

          2. Moon Swag (Luis Saez, Brendan Walsh)

          3. Royal Take Charge (Cristian Torres, Al Stall Jr.)

          4. Soul of an Angel (Luis Reyes, Gerald James)

          5. Pauline’s Pearl (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen)

          6. A Mo Reay (Prat, Cox)

          7. Heartyconstitution (Tyler Gaffalione, Joe Sharp)

          8. Music Street (Julien Leparoux, Whit Beckman)

TOP SPRINTER BANGO RETURNS TO ELLIS FOR $225,000 KELLY’S LANDING STAKES – Tamaroak Partners’ 12-time winning sprinter Bango headlines a field of seven colts and geldings entered in the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing Stakes (Listed) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

          Run at 6 ½ furlongs, the Kelly’s Landing was carded as Race 6 of 11 with a post time of 2:18 p.m. (all times Central). First post for the Stephen Foster Day stakes bonanza is 11:45 a.m. Along with the Kelly’s Landing, the spectacular program at the “Pea Patch” features the $1 million Stephen Foster (GI), the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), the $400,000 Wise Dan (GII), the $225,000 American Derby (Listed) and the $225,000 Tepin.

          Bango is one of the winningest horses in Churchill Downs history having won 10 starts beneath the Twin Spires. Trainer Greg Foley will take his prized sprinter on the road to Ellis Park where he won the 2021 Good Lord Stakes. In his most recent start, Bango made a bold move around the far turn in the $225,000 Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs but could not hold off the charge of Gunite. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will be back aboard Bango for the Kelly’s Landing and break from post No. 2.

          Another accomplished entered in the Kelly’s Landing is Jay Em Ess Stable’s Miles Ahead, who was narrowly defeated by Aloha West in last year’s race at Churchill Downs. Conditioned byPaul McGee, Miles Ahead is a 12-time winner from 29 starts. Among his notable wins are the Smile Sprint (GIII), the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes and the Gulfstream Park Sprint. Jockey Martin Garcia will have the call from post 3.

          Here is the complete field for the Kelly’s Landing in order of post positions (with jockey and trainer):

          1. Fortin Hill (Gerardo Corrales, Paulo Lobo)

          2. Bango (Gaffalione, Foley)

          3. Miles Ahead (Garcia, McGee)

          4. Happy Jack (Rafael Bejarano, Doug O’Neill)

          5. Marsalis (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen)

          6. Surveillance (James Graham, Keith Desormeaux)

          7. Tejano Twist (Francisco Arrieta, Chris Hartman)

GRADE III WINNER MO STASH LEADS COMPETTIVE FIELD IN AMERICAN DERBY – BBN Racing’s Transylvania Stakes (Grade III) winner Mo Stash leads a compact field of six turf specialists that entered the $225,000 American Derby (Listed) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

          The American Derby will be contested at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Post time for the American Derby is 12:43 p.m. (all times Central) as Race 3 of 11. The American Derby is one of six stakes events on Ellis Park’s Saturday program that is headlined by the $1 million Stephen Foster (GI). The other supporting stakes are the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), the $400,000 Wise Dan (GII), the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed) and the $225,000 Tepin. First post is 11:45 a.m.

          Mo Stash, trained by Vicki Oliver, led the field wire-to-wire in the Transylvania Stakes two starts ago. In his last start, the 3-year-old son of Mo Town nearly pulled off a 7-1 upset victory in the American Turf (GII) but was defeated 1 ½ lengths to Webslinger. Jockey Luis Saez will have the mount from the rail.

          Other notable 3-year-old that entered the American Derby include Iapetus Racing and Diamond T Racing’s Caesars Stakes winner Gigante; trainer Todd Pletcher’s duo of Hidden Path and Sharar and Godolphin’s narrow runner-up in the Caesars Stakes Wadsworth.

          Here is the field for the American Derby in order of post positions (with jockey and trainer):

          1. Mo Stash (Saez, Oliver)

          2. Wadsworth (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox)

          3. Desert Duke (Mitchell Murrill, Chris Hartman)

          4. Gigante (Tyler Gaffalione, Steve Asmussen)

          5. Hidden Path (Flavien Prat, Todd Pletcher)

          6. Sharar (Julien Leparoux, Todd Pletcher)

GRADE II EDGEWOOD STAKES WINNER HEAVENLY SUNDAY HEADLINES TEPIN STAKES – Miacomet Farm’s Edgewood Stakes (GII) winner Heavenly Sunday headlines a field of nine 3-year-old fillies entered to contest Saturday’s $225,000 Tepin Stakes at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

          The Tepin Stakes, run at one-mile in turf, will go as Race 11 of 11 with a post time of 4:59 p.m. (all times Central). First post for Stephen Foster Day is 11:45 a.m. Along with the Tepin Stakes, the outstanding program from the “Pea Patch” includes the $1 million Stephen Foster (GI), the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), the $400,000 Wise Dan (GII), the $225,000 American Derby (Listed) and the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed).

          Trained by Brad Cox, Heavenly Sunday finished three-quarters of a length in front of Revalita in the Edgewood on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs. The Edgewood was Heavenly Sunday’s first stakes victory. The daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) will be ridden byFlorent Geroux out of post No. 3.

          Another improving 3-year-old entered in the Tepin is Rigney Racing’s Xigera. Trained by Phil Bauer, the flashy daughter of Nyquist impressed by 3 ½ lengths in a first-level allowance last time at Churchill Downs. She’ll be piloted by Julien Leparoux from post 5.

          Here is the complete field for the Tepin Stakes from the rail out (with jockey and trainer):

          1. Sandra D (David Cohen, Steve Margolis)

          2. Safeen (Luis Saez, Eddie Kenneally)

          3. Heavenly Sunday (Geroux, Cox)

          4. Wonderfull Lady (FR) (Tyler Gaffalione, Brendan Walsh)

          5. Xigera (Leparoux, Bauer)

          6. Meta Physical (Adam Beschizza, Jeff Hiles)

          7. Girl Named Charlie (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss)

          8. Santa Fe Gold (Francisco Arrieta, Bret Calhoun)

          9. Klassy Bridgette (Mitchell Murrill, Chris Hartman)                 

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.