Kentucky Derby

Kingsbarns wins Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill

Kingsbarns wins Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill

Good mid-range odds made for good betting returns for the top two horses in the $1 million Stephen Foster (Grade I) at Churchill Downs.

Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Kingsbarns, winner of last year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby and this year’s Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland, collected the first Grade I of his career when he powered past leaders First Mission and Skippylongstocking leaving the far turn and drove home to win Saturday’s 43rd running of the Stephen Foster by 2 ½ lengths over Pyrenees while clocking 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.09.

Luis Saez rode the winner for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and both collected their first wins in the prestigious Foster.

“We’re extremely proud of this horse’s effort and for the entire team behind him,” Pletcher said. “Obviously winning a Grade I is a tremendous accomplishment. I think we’ve seen this year he’s been able to settle better than when he was a 3-year-old and show that new dimension. He sat a perfect trip today and really kicked well when turning for home.”

Kingsbarns tuned the tables on Pyrenees, who defeated the Foster winner six weeks ago by three-quarters of a length in the $250,000 Pimlico Special (GIII).

The lofty $601,260 first prize lifted the bay Kentucky-bred colt’s earnings to millionaire status — $1,559,060 from a record of 6-2-0 in nine starts.

The victory in the Stephen Foster, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Classic Division” race, earned Kingsbarns a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $6 million Longines Classic (GI), which is scheduled for Nov. 2 at Del Mar. Also, his connections will have all Breeders’ Cup pre-entry and entry fees covered and could receive a travel award up to $10,000.

Kingsbarns, at odds of 9-1, rewarded his backers with mutuels of $21.90, $9.20 and $5.44. Pyrenees, with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard, was second and returned $12.10 and $4.64 at odds of 10-1. Skippylongstocking, at 4-1, was another head back in third under Jose Ortiz and paid $4.66 to show.

First Mission, the odds-on 4-5 betting choice was fourth and was followed by Steal Sunshine, 4-1 second choice Disarm, Classic Causeway and Dreamlike.

First Mission, with Skippylongstocking tracking off his right hip, set a measured pace in the field of eight older horses with early fractions of :24.13, :48.38 and 1:11.86. Kingsbarns, who broke from post six, was content to relax just behind in fourth and in the clear down the backstretch. Kingsbarns began to advance around the final turn and grabbed the lead with a quarter mile to the finish. He was never threatened down the stretch on his way to Grade I glory.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of speed in the race so I know we had to be closer to the pace,” Saez said. “Around the far turn he really found his stride nicely and just took me from there. He fought hard down the entire stretch.”

Kingsbarns is a 4-year-old son of Uncle Mo out of the Tapit mare Lady Tapit and was bred by Parks Investment Group LLC.


Racing on the thriving Kentucky circuit will shift to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming on the Fourth of July Thursday at 11:50 p.m. CT for its 25-day stand in Henderson. Live action at Churchill Downs will return Thursday, Sept. 12 for the 14-day September Meet.

The betting numbers were impressive from the spring meet at Churchill Downs which ended Sunday.

Saturday’s 12-race Stephen Foster Day card attracted the most wagers in the 43-year history of the event. Betting totaled $18.8 million, which was a $4.9 million or 35% increase from the last time it was held at Churchill Downs in 2022. The $18.8 million milestone also was the second-largest non-Derby Week or Breeders’ Cup wagering day in the history of the track, only behind the $19.3 million bet on Stephen Foster Preview Day during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 23, 2020.

A total of $708.3 million was wagered during the 43-day stand that concluded Sunday. That broke the 2022 Spring Meet record of $614.8 million by a lofty $93.5 million. For some perspective, Spring Meet betting totaled $368.8 million 10 years ago in 2014.

All sources handle during the wildly successful six-day Derby Week (April 27-May 4) rose to $446.6 million — including an unprecedented $320.5 million on Kentucky Derby Day — to eclipse last year’s Derby Week record of $412.0 million.


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