Ten Things You Should Know: Stephen Foster Handicap
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
1) The Stephen Foster Handicap is a 1 1/8 miles race over the dirt for older horses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This year’s edition is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, the winner will qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in October.
2) The first edition of the race came in 1982. It was run as a Grade 3 from 1988 to 1994, was upgraded to a Grade 2 in 1995, and has been a Grade 1 since 2002.
3) The race is named for legendary American composer Stephen Foster (1826-1864). Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home,” a song that has been sung prior to the running of the Kentucky Derby since the 1921.
4) No Kentucky Derby winner has ever returned to Churchill to win the Stephen Foster. Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm ran in the race twice but finished second in 1998 and fourth in 1999. He was beaten by the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again in 1998. The 1999 Stephen Foster was the final race of Silver Charm’s stellar career.
5) In 1999, the previous year’s Belmont Stakes winner, Victory Gallop, set the Churchill Downs track record for 1 1/8 miles in the Stephen Foster (1:47.88). The record still stands.
6) Street Cry won the 2002 edition of the Stephen Foster. Five years later, his son, Street Sense, won the Kentucky Derby over the same track.
7) Three Horse of the Year winners won the Stephen Foster during their championship campaigns: Black Tie Affair (1991), Saint Liam (2005), and Curlin (2008). All three also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic during their careers. In 2003, eventual Horse of the Year Mineshaft finished second to Perfect Drift in the Stephen Foster.
8) After winning the Stephen Foster in 2003, Perfect Drift finished third in 2004 and 2005. He finished second in 2006 to 91-1 shot Seek Gold. Retired in 2008, Perfect Drift spends his summers as the “horse in residence” at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs.
10) Two jockeys share the record with three winning mounts in the Stephen Foster. Pat Day won three editions of the race in three different decades, with victories in 1985, 1998, and 2003. Robby Albarado won his three in consecutive runnings from 2007 to 2009 on three different horses.