Kentucky Derby

Stephen Foster and Bango’s quest for history highlight Churchill Downs’ closing weekend

Stephen Foster and Bango's quest for history highlight Churchill Downs' closing weekend

Churchill Downs’ two-month Spring Meet will come to a close this weekend, featuring a loaded card Saturday that includes six stakes races.

The highlight is Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 Stephen Foster, which will provide the winner an automatic spot in the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Del Mar.

First post for racing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are available at ChurchillDowns.com.

Kentucky’s racing circuit will move to Ellis Park next week, with live racing starting Thursday. Racing will return to Churchill Downs on Sept. 12.

Here are three things to know about this weekend at Churchill Downs:

First Mission leads Stephen Foster

First Mission, with Florent Geroux up, crosses the line to win the 21st running of The Alysheba, Friday, May 3 2024 in Louisville Ky.

With 4-year-old First Mission, Louisville trainer Brad Cox has the 6-5 morning-line favorite for the Stephen Foster.

A son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, First Mission will enter the Stephen Foster off a victory in the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 3 at Churchill.

“The Stephen Foster is always a tough race year in and year out,” Cox said. “It’s a Grade I, so that’s expected. This year’s field is no different, but we like our chances to try and get him his first Grade I win.”

First Mission drew the No. 2 post in a field of nine and will be ridden by Florent Geroux.

Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., Skippylongstocking is the 5-2 second choice for the Stephen Foster. The 5-year-old son of Exaggerator will enter off a victory in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap on April 20.

“If he runs as well as he did at Oaklawn last time, he’s going to be very tough,” Joseph said.

Scylla headlines Fleur de Lis

The Bill Mott-trained Scylla is the 6-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $500,000, Grade 2 Fleur de Lis.

A 4-year-old daughter of Tapit, Scylla is 4-1-1 in six career starts and is 3 for 3 at Churchill Downs. She most recently won the Grade 3 Shawnee on June 1.

The Fleur de Lis is part of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen series in which the top three finishers will receive a portion of their entry fees should they enter the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 2 at Del Mar.

Bango goes for Churchill Downs history again

Bango finished 4th out of 5 in the St. Matthews Overnight Stakes at this years Thurby at Churchill Downs. May 2, 2024

Bango will get his third try at history in Saturday’s $250,000 Kelly’s Landing.

Trained by Greg Foley, the 7-year-old Bango has 11 career victories at Churchill Downs, tied with Ready’s Rocket (2005-12) for the most in track history.

Bango lost in his two previous attempts at Churchill, finishing third in last November’s Bet on Sunshine Stakes and fourth in the St. Matthews on May 2.

Bango drew the No. 8 post in a field of eight for the Kelly’s Landing and will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.

Hoist the Gold, a 5-year-old trained by Dallas Stewart, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Kelly’s Landing, which has a 5:31 p.m. post time.

Stephen Foster Stakes 2024

Post time: 6:03 p.m. Saturday at Churchill Downs. Purse: $1 million. Grade: 1. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. Jockey weight: 124 pounds. TV: FanDuel TV.

PP Horse, jockey, trainer, odds

1. Pyrenees, Brian Hernandez Jr., Cherie DeVaux, 12-1

2. First Mission, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 6-5

3. Happy American, Corey Lanerie, Neil Pessin, 30-1

4. Disarm, Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 6-1

5. Dreamlike, Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher, 10-1

6. Classic Causeway, Julien Leparoux, Kenny McPeek, 30-1

7. Kingsbarns, Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher, 6-1

8. Steal Sunshine, Paco Lopez, Bobby Dibona, 20-1

9. Skippylongstocking, Jose Ortiz, Saffie Joseph Jr., 5-2

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com. Follow on X @KentuckyDerbyCJ.

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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Churchill Downs racing schedule: Stephen Foster Stakes 2024, Bango

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