The 2021 Churchill Downs Spring Meet opened with a controversial and still undecided Kentucky Derby outcome. It will end Saturday with a superstar who never had a chance to run for the roses proving his mettle in one of the track’s biggest events.
As the horse racing world still awaits a final ruling on Medina Spirit’s failed postrace drug test eight weeks after he won trainer Bob Baffert’s record seventh Kentucky Derby, the Louisville racetrack wraps up the spring with four graded stakes races Saturday, headlined by the 40th running of the $600,000, Grade 2 Stephen Foster.
Maxfield, a 4-year-old trained by Brendan Walsh and ridden by Jose Ortiz, has been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite in a field of nine for the 1 1/8-mile race for older horses.
Maxfield has won six of his seven career races, including the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill his last time out on April 30.
Maxfield was one of the early favorites on the road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby after winning the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill but suffered a condylar fracture following a workout at Keeneland and could not make it back to the track in time for a Derby that was run in September because of COVID-19.
The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense returned to racing last winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, winning the Tenacious Stakes on Dec. 19, then the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes on Feb. 13 to run his career record to 5-0. Maxfield suffered his only career defeat March 6, finishing third in a hotly contested Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap won by a late-running Idol.
“We shipped him up from Keeneland last week and worked an easy half-mile (at Churchill Downs),” Walsh said of Maxfield, who boasts career earnings of $908,782. “He did most of his work at Keeneland prior to the Foster. He’s a fit and happy horse. We’re ready to go and excited to get this race underway.”
Three challengers were made 6-1 co-second choices on the morning line: Silver Dust, Warrior’s Charge and Visitant.
Silver Dust, a 7-year-old who finished third in last year’s Stephen Foster behind Tom’s d’Etat and By My Standards, won the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland on April 10 in his most recent start.
Warrior’s Charge, a 5-year-old trained by Brad Cox, finished fourth in the 2019 Preakness Stakes. He has not won since taking the Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth last August, hitting the board only once in his most recent four races.
Visitant, another 5-year-old, ran second to Maxfield by 3 ¼ lengths in the Alysheba at Churchill last time out.
Chess Chief, who finished third that day, will also take another crack at Maxfield on Saturday, checking in at 12-1 on the morning line.
The Stephen Foster field also includes Sprawl (10-1), South Bend (12-1), Necker Island (15-1) and Empty Tomb (30-1).
Also featured Saturday at Churchill are the $300,000, Grade 2 Wise Dan, the $150,000, Grade 3 Bashford Manor and the $300,000, Grade 2 Fleur de Lis.
Cox’s Set Piece is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 10 for the 1 1/16-mile Wise Dan.
Glacial is the 3-1 top choice among 11 in the 6-furlong Bashford Manor.
Letruska (4-5) headlines a field of six in the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis for older fillies and mares.
First post on Saturday’s 12-race closing-day card at Churchill Downs is 12:45 p.m. The Stephen Foster goes off at 5:59 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 2.