June 23, 2024

O Besos back for Matt Winn; Silver Dust, Envoutante head undercard stakes

Envoutante winning the Falls City (G2) at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

Saturday’s 11-race Stephen Foster Preview Day at Churchill Downs features seven stakes. The Matt Winn S. (G3), which will feature the return of Kentucky Derby fifth O Besos, is one of four events scheduled for the main track.

Matt Winn (G3) – Race 9 (4:55 p.m. ET)

O Besos was one of the few runners to make any impact from off the pace in the Kentucky Derby, rallying from 12th to reach a threatening position by upper stretch. Overlooked at 41-1, the Greg Foley-trained colt wound up a respectable fifth, beaten only 5 1/2 lengths, and O Besos will be the one to beat when he comes back four weeks later for the $150,000 Matt Winn S. (G3).

By 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, O Besos won two straight sprints at Fair Grounds over the winter before recording a non-threatening fourth in his stakes debut, the Risen Star (G2) in mid-February. He came five weeks later with an improved third in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), missing second by a head, and carried his ascending form forward in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

“We love running at Churchill and this race gives us plenty of options going forward,” Foley said.

Marcelino Pedroza retains the mount on the chestnut, and O Besos will face seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn.

Helium is also back after finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby. An upset winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his three-year-old opener, the once-beaten colt still has plenty of promise for Mark Casse. Julien Leparoux will guide the son of Ironicus, and Helium is eligible to be a pace presence given the lack of early speed in the lineup.

Fulsome will jump to graded competition for Brad Cox. A Juddmonte homebred son of Into Mischief, the bay colt will bring a two-race win streak to the Matt Winn, easily taking an entry-level allowance at Keeneland before posting a 1 1/4-length decision in the May 1 Oaklawn S. Florent Geroux has the call on the stalker.

Other runners include juvenile Grade 3 scorer Sittin on Go, fifth most recently in the Pat Day Mile (G2); Aqueduct stakes winner Hello Hot Rod, who exits a fourth in the April 24 Federico Tesio S.; and Oaklawn S. third Game Day Play.

Blame S. – Race 6 (3:18 p.m. ET)

The local prep for the Stephen Foster S. (G2) on June 26, the $150,000 Blame S. has attracted a field of seven for 1 1/8 miles. Four-time Grade 3 winner Silver Dust is the top draw.

Third in the 2020 Stephen Foster, Silver Dust can push his earnings ($975,677) past the $1 million mark on Saturday. The seven-year-old gelding brings good form to the Blame, winning the April 10 Ben Ali S. (G3) at Keeneland in his last outing, and regular rider Adam Beschizza will be up on the gray for Bret Calhoun.

Grade 3 victor Night Ops, second as the favorite in the Ben Ali, is the main rival. Florent Geroux will retake the mount on the five-year-old for Brad Cox.

Sprawl, a 7 1/4-length allowance romper under the Twin Spires on May 9, and multiple stakes winner Guest Suite are also part of the mix.

Shawnee S. – Race 7 (3:50 p.m. ET)

Eight fillies and mare will square off in the $150,000 Shawnee S., the local prep for the Fleur de Lis S. (G2) on June 26.

Grade 2 winner Envoutante, second by a length to Shedaresthedevil in the April 30 La Troienne S. (G1), will take some beating. Trained by Kenny McPeek, the four-year-old Uncle Mo filly has shown an affinity for Churchill Downs (3-2-1-0). Brian Hernandez Jr. rides.

Grade 1 heroine Paris Lights will try to rebound from a disappointing sixth in the La Troienne. Winner of the Distaff H. (G3) at Aqueduct in her seasonal bow, the four-year-old Curlin filly had a four-race win streak snapped last time. Tyler Gaffalione will pilot for Bill Mott.

Other contestants include Istan Council, La Renoleta, and Miss Bigly.

Aristides S. – Race 10 (5:26 p.m. ET)

After faltering as the favorite in the Churchill Downs S. (G1), Tap It to Win will try to bounce back in the $150,000 Aristides S. The four-year-old stakes winner will meet nine foes in the six-furlong event, and Gaffalione will be up for Casse.

Bango is a candidate to show more after weakening to sixth as the pacesetter in the Churchill Downs. Last-out allowance winners Empire of Gold and Sir Alfred James also merit attention in the contentious field.