Scully: Handicapping All-Stakes Pick 4 on Stephen Foster Day

June 29th, 2023

Newly reinstated to Grade 1 status, Saturday’s $1 million Stephen Foster (G1) drew a fine field of eight, including seven graded winners this year, and the 1 1/8-mile race highlights a 10-race program featuring six stakes at Ellis Park, which took over the Churchill Downs spring meet dates in mid-June.

The Stephen Foster also serves as the third leg in an all-stakes Pick 4 that kicks off in the eighth race, the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (G2) for fillies and mares. I’ll take a stand against the two morning line favorites in the Pick 4, building a $24 ticket on the sequence.

50-cent Pick 4: 1,2,3,7 with 6,8 with 5,6 with 3,5,9 = $24

Here are my thoughts.

Race 8 – Fleur de Lis (G2), 4:22 p.m. ET

#3 Royal Take Charge (6-1) is my top choice in her stakes debut. A comfortable winner in her first two starts, the four-year-old filly didn’t experience the cleanest trip when finishing a close second in a late April allowance at Keeneland following a three-month freshening. She moved forward off that effort last time, rolling to a 6 3/4-length decision over allowance foes at Churchill Downs at today’s 1 1/8-mile distance, and I like her chances on the front end with Christian Torres.

Added ground is a potential obstacle for 8-5 morning line favorite A Mo Reay, who appears prefers less ground and exits a disappointing effort at short odds. Pauline’s Pearl, the 3-1 second choice, will also be faded following a pair of dull efforts.

#1 Bellamore (5-1), #2 Moon Swag (6-1), and #7 Heartyconstitution (5-1) offer some appeal for multi-race tickets.

Race 9 – Wise Dan (G2), 4:55 p.m. ET

After a third in his seven-year-old reappearance on May 4, #8 Set Piece (4-5) easily returned to the winner’s circle in the Arlington (G3) on June 3. He looks formidable in this spot for Brad Cox, winning four of seven attempts at the 1 1/16-mile distance on turf, but Set Piece has lost his last few starts following a win.

#6 Kittansett (12-1) rates a look for an upset following an encouraging allowance win, his first from three turf attempts. The six-year-old recorded a fourth in the Evan Williams S. at Ellis when making his turf debut last summer, and while Kittansett defeated only three rivals at Churchill last time, all (Dominican Pioneer, Good Governance, and Starting Over) were stakes veterans. The up-and-coming gelding may be in position to challenge turning for home.

Race 10 – Stephen Foster (G1), 5:26 p.m. ET

#5 Smile Happy (3-1) appears to be thriving for Kenny McPeek, recording a sparkling two-length score in the Alysheba (G2) on May 5 that netted a 106 Brisnet Speed rating, and he won’t be far back stalking the early action before offering his best. Following a superb win in the New Orleans Classic (G2) in late May, #6 West Will Power (7-2) couldn’t duplicate the performance recording a well-beaten third at odds-on in the Alysheba. He’s trained forwardly since for Cox, and the five-year-old’s speed remains dangerous in this spot.

Race 11 – Tepin S., 5:58 p.m. ET

#3 Heavenly Sunday (5-2) will need to be caught off a nice win in the Edgewood (G2) at Churchill, and #5 Xigera (2-1) can’t be dismissed following a sharp allowance triumph at Churchill in her 2023 opener. I’ll also include #9 Klassy Bridgette (15-1), who possesses some turf breeding and may appreciate the surface switch after a fourth in a mile stakes at Oaklawn in late April.