Horse Racing

2024 Stephen Foster Stakes Preview

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
2024 Stephen Foster Stakes Preview

An automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Classic is at stake in the Grade 1, $1 million Stephen Foster Stakes. The handicap-division feature of the summer at Churchill Downs, the race covers 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt in Louisville. The race drew a talented field of nine led by First Mission, Skippylongstocking, and Kingsbarns.

Run since 1982, the Stephen Foster is one of the major races for older dirt route horses. Four have gone on to win Horse of the Year after wins in this race: Black Tie Affair (1991), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008), and Gun Runner (2017). Five have won the Stephen Foster and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year: in addition to Black Tie Affair, Saint Liam, and Gun Runner, Awesome Again (1998) and Blame (2010) also accomplished the feat.

Stephen Foster Stakes Information

  • Race Date: Saturday, June 29
  • Track: Churchill Downs
  • Post Time: 6:03 Eastern Daylight Time
  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Age/Sex: four-year-olds and upward
  • Where to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Where to Bet: and FanDuel Racing

2024 Stephen Foster Stakes Draw and Odds

This is the official field for the Stephen Foster, including post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds.

1PyreneesCherie DeVauxBrian Hernandez12-1
2First MissionBrad CoxFlorent Geroux6-5
3Happy AmericanNeil PessinCorey Lanerie30-1
4DisarmSteve AsmussenJoel Rosario6-1
5DreamlikeTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz, Jr.10-1
6Classic CausewayKenny McPeekJulien Leparoux30-1
7KingsbarnsTodd PletcherLuis Saez6-1
View Full Table

Stephen Foster Stakes Prep Race Results

The nine contenders in the Stephen Foster come out of seven different prep races. The Alysheba (G2), the major handicap-division race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day, was the last-out start for two runners: First Mission won the race, while Steal Sunshine was a chasing fourth. The top two from the Pimlico Special (G2) also resurface here: Pyrenees narrowly outfinished Kingsbarns in that spot.

Two others come out of stakes races. Dreamlike was most recently third in the Blame (G3), the immediate local prep for the Stephen Foster. Skippylongstocking makes his first start since a stalk-and-pounce score in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) on April 20.

The other three horses in the field last raced in allowance company at Churchill Downs. Disarm, laid off since a second-place outing in the Travers last summer, won his four-year-old debut in an allowance going 1 1/16 miles on May 18. Happy American most recently finished a close third in a one-mile dirt allowance on May 31, while Classic Causeway weakened to a well-beaten fourth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on May 27 that was washed off the lawn.

Stephen Foster Stakes Contenders

These are the nine contenders entered in the Stephen Foster:

  1. Pyrenees: Still a maiden as recently as December, this lightly raced four-year-old has won four straight: a maiden race, his first two allowance conditions, and then the Pimlico Special, where he overhauled heavily favored Kingsbarns. He has the tactical versatility to set the pace or track, though the rail may prove tricky since he went gate-to-wire in his only start from the rail and he’ll have to deal with other speed outside of him in this. Still, he is steadily improving, rider Brian Hernandez gives excellent rail rides, and it is interesting that he sticks with Pyrenees for Cherie DeVaux instead of sticking with Classic Causeway for Kenny McPeek, a trainer he rides for so often.
  2. First Mission: Though he fired a clunker in the Pegasus three back, his two starts since have been strong, open-lengths victories in both the Essex (G3) and the Pimlico Special. He has good tactical speed, good form at Churchill, and consistently competitive speeds for this field. He will be favored off of such strong recent form, but without a clear divisional leader in this race First Mission has a good chance to run to the money.
  3. Happy American: This son of Runhappy came up flat in his last three, but woke up when moved to allowance company and turned back to one turn for his last race, finishing a good third. The waters get deeper here, and he will need to bounce back to form he hasn’t shown in a year, when he finished third in this race. Even though he should get at least an honest pace to close into, it would be a surprise to see him bounce back so suddenly to that level of form.
  4. Disarm: One of the most talented sophomores of last year, Disarm took an extended break after finishing a close second to Arcangelo in the Travers last year. He won his return in May, but it wasn’t much of a test: a two-other-than allowance with four horses, in which he was able to set a downright dawdling pace. To Disarm’s credit, he does not need to set the pace to win and if he bounces back to the form he showed last year, he should be competitive at a square price.
  5. Dreamlike: Though he has only won once in nine starts, he has three graded-stakes placings on his resume already, including a second in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) last year. He won’t set the pace but can run a good race from virtually anywhere in the pack, and he has trustworthy big-race connections in jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and trainer Todd Pletcher. A win would be a surprise, but against a field of this level, another money finish would be no shock at all.
  6. Classic Causeway: He is a three-time graded-stakes winner, twice on dirt and once on turf, though his most recent win was a victory in the Belmont Derby (G1) two years ago. Since then, his best outing was a second in the Essex (G3) at Oaklawn over a year ago. He does get a jockey change, so if he and Julien Leparoux click perhaps he can move forward. However, it would be a surprise to see him as more than a pace factor, especially since he was not competitive in a washed-off allowance last out.
  7. Kingsbarns: After a long layoff between his three- and four-year-old years he has been in good form, winning an allowance and then the Ben Ali (G3). He was sent off a heavy favorite in the Pimlico Special and ran well, but could not hold off the up-and-coming Pyrenees after a speed duel. The cutback to 1 ⅛ miles for the Foster plays in his favor, and if he can stay out of a protracted speed duel, he can return to his winning ways at a fair price.
  8. Steal Sunshine: He joined the ranks of graded-stakes winners when he scored in the Gulfstream Park Mile three starts back, and ran back with a solid third in the Ghostzapper (G3) next out. However, he was a well-beaten fourth in the Alysheba in his most recent start, and he has yet to prove that he can show his Gulfstream Park level of form at Churchill Downs.
  9. Skippylongstocking: Though he pulled up in the Pegasus World Cup three back, he seems none the worse for wear: in two starts since, he has won the Challenger (G3) and the Oaklawn Handicap. With an outside draw, he has a good chance at a clean stalking trip, much like the one that won him the Oaklawn Handicap last out. He reunites with Jose Ortiz, who rode him in that race, and he stays at 1 ⅛ miles, his best distance.

Stephen Foster Stakes FAQ

Q: When is the Stephen Foster Stakes?

A: The Stephen Foster happens Saturday, June 30, 2024, at 6:03 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Q: Where is the Stephen Foster Stakes?

A: After a year at Ellis Park in 2023 due to track surface issues at the race’s traditional home, the Stephen Foster returns to Churchill Downs for 2024.

Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Stephen Foster Stakes?

A: Four trainers have won the Stephen Foster twice. Three are no longer active: Forrest Kaelin, Jere Smith, Sr., and Patrick Byrne. Mark Casse remains active, but does not have an entrant in this year’s edition of the race. Among trainers running horses in this year’s Stephen Foster, Steve Asmussen won with Gun Runner (2017) and Curlin (2008), while Brad Cox won with West Will Power (2023).

Q: Who is the favorite for the Stephen Foster Stakes?

A: First Mission, coming off a victory in the local Alysheba Stakes, is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Stephen Foster. Skippylongstocking, 5-2 on the morning line, is also expected to take strong action.

Q: Who is the best Stephen Foster Stakes jockey?

A: Robby Albarado and Pat Day lead all jockeys with three Stephen Foster Handicap wins apiece, though neither rider is active anymore. Among jockeys riding in 2024, Two riders in the 2024 edition have won it before: Brian Hernandez, Jr. won with Fort Larned in 2013, Florent Geroux won in 2017 with Gun Runner, and Jose Ortiz won in 2021 with Maxfield.

Q: Who won the Stephen Foster Stakes in 2023?

A: West Will Power won the 2023 Stephen Foster for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Flavien Prat. Prat does not ride in the 2024 edition, though Cox returns with favorite First Mission.

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