Seeking the Soul prevailed in a three-horse stretch battle with Quip and Tom’s d’Etat to win Saturday night’s 38th running of the Grade 2, $600,000 Stephen Foster by a neck at Churchill Downs.
Owned and bred by Charles Fipke, 6-year-old Seeking the Soul covered 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.27 with jockey John Velzaquez, who rode the winner for trainer Dallas Stewart.
The $345,960 first prize lifted the bay Kentucky-bred’s earnings to $3,335,802 from a record of 7-6-7 in 27 starts.
Also, the victory in the Stephen Foster, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Classic Division” race, earned Seeking the Soul a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
“We will definitely be in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year,” Stewart said. “This horse is so special to our entire barn. We have to thank Mr. Fipke for allowing us to train him. With family and friends here tonight, this is as good as it gets — we’re in the Classic.”
Tom’s d’Etat set the pace early in the Foster with Quip matching strides about a half-length back to his outside. Meanwhile, Seeking the Soul had a perfect tracking trip in sixth down the backstretch.
As the horses reached the top of the stretch, Quip drew even with Tom’s d’Etat and took over with three-sixteenths to run.
Seeking the Soul moved into third and collared the front-runners with a sixteenth of a mile to go and edged clear for the win.
“As soon as I broke out there and got into the first turn, he was a little more aggressive than I want him to be,” Velazquez said. “He’s never been that close in the first part of the race. But I got him back to where I wanted him to be, got comfortable where he was, and then down the stretch, pulling out, he had it.”
Seeking the Soul rewarded his backers with mutuels of $11.20, $6.20 and $4.20 as the 9-2 third betting choice.
Quip, with Florent Geroux aboard, returned $12.20 and $8.20, also at 9-2. Tom’s d’Etat, another 1¾ lengths back in third under Shaun Bridgmohan, paid $4.80 to show.
This was the third graded stakes win for Seeking the Soul, who won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap in 2017 and last year’s Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs.
After winning the Ack Ack, Seeking the Soul finished second to City of Light in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Following an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup, he returned to the states for the Grade 2 Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks Day and finished third behind McKinzie and Tom’s d’Etat.
Four-year-old gelding March to the Arch surged past 71-1 longshot All Right in the final yards to win the Grade 2, $250,000 Wise Dan by a neck. Admission Office, the 2-1 favorite in the field of 13 older horses, was another neck back in third while 33-1 outsider Parlor finished another head back in fourth.
Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by Mark Casse, March to the Arch ran 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:40.58 to collect his third stakes win and first against Grade 2 company.
“The race set up beautifully,” Gaffalione said. “The speed went ahead and I was able to tuck in going into the first turn. So, we were saving ground all around and I kind of just followed Corey (on Parlor) when he started making his move. When I got him outside, he really exploded. He just kicked it into gear.”
Mr. Money, winner of the Grade 3, $400,000 Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby day, returned to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle after scoring a decisive 6½-length win over Signalman in the Grade 3, $150,000 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds.
Ridden by Gabriel Saez, Mr. Money sat just behind pacesetter Knicks Go early. Midway around the final turn, Mr. Money ranged up to Knicks Go’s outside, grabbed the lead and drew off down the lane for a comfortable win.
“That was about as easy as you can do it,” Saez said. “This horse has been so impressive all along and (trainer) Bret (Calhoun) and his team’s hard work is paying off.”
Mr. Money returned $3.20, $2.40 and $2.20 as the odds-on favorite. Signalman, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., returned $4 and $2.60 and finished 2 lengths in front of Proverb, who paid $3.60 to show under Calvin Borel. Armistice Day, Knicks Go, Limonite and Nolo Contesto completed the order of finish.
Fleur de Lis
Elate powered past Blue Prize and She’s a Julie to capture the Grade 2, $250,000 Fleur de Lis. Elate, ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Bill Mott, ran 1 1/8 miles on the fast dirt in 1:50.33 and secured and “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 2.
“Jose got the perfect rail trip and once he straightened her out in the lane she came running late,” Mott said. “We thought the added distance makes a bit of difference with her and we like to have a goal to shoot for at the end of the year with the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. If she belongs, that’s a race to definitely shoot for.”
Hard Legacy led wire-to-wire in the Grade 3, $150,000 Regret to give trainer Norm Casse his first stakes victory.
Hard Legacy, a 3-year-old daughter of Hard Spun, ran 1 1/8 miles over the firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:48.22 to win by 1¼ lengths under jockey Julien Leparoux.
“Churchill Downs is my home. Louisville is my home. To win my first stakes ... here is so special,” Casse said. “I thought today would be the day. Hard Legacy had been training very well. We had Julien up. It was time to get the first stakes win. Hopefully the first of many.”
Hard Legacy returned $13.80, $6.60 and $4.60. Winter Sunset, under jockey Channing Hill, held second to return $5.40 and $3.40. Post-time favorite Varenka, at odds of 9-5, finished third with Javier Castellano in the saddle and returned $2.80.