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Jun 14, 2013

Six to do battle in Foster Handicap


Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Six high-quality older thoroughbreds will do battle Saturday night at Churchill Downs in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at the distance of 1 1/8 miles.

Last year's winner Ron the Greek returns to defend his crown on Churchill's main track. Trained by Bill Mott, the 6-year-old will start from post 3 with his regular jockey Jose Lezcano.

Owned by Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack T. Hammer, Ron the Greek established himself as one of the best older runners with last year's Foster victory by defeating eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan. In that race was Fort Larned, who went on to win the Whitney Handicap and the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"I guess after we beat him in the Foster, I thought we were at least as good as he was," Mott said about Fort Larned. "But he wound up beating us in both the Whitney and the Breeders' Cup. So our hats are off to him and we've got to try to turn the tables."

Ron the Greek was second in the Whitney and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. This year he captured the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park but was fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap and third in the Charles Town Classic, losing both to Game On Dude.

The 6-year-old has eight wins in 25 career starts for $1,976,597.

Fort Larned will break from post 2 with Brian Hernandez Jr. again in the saddle. The 5-year-old is owned by Janis Whitham and trained by Ian Wilkes.

The Breeders' Cup Classic winner has not had a good start to 2013. He lost his rider at the start of the Gulfstream Park Handicap and was fifth in The Oaklawn Handicap.

"When you get to a Grade I race, they don't just hand them to you," Wilkes said. "I wish they would hand it to us, but they're not going to do it. That's the challenge. Fort Larned has to step up to the plate and become the big dog again. That's what he's got to do.

"You never know until you get back to the races. That's the biggest key. His works have been really good -- solid and crisp. And the horse looks really good. After the stumble and the bad race, I had to regroup. I had to get it together and this is our start for the second half of the year to get things going."

Fort Larned has earned $3,702,236 with eight wins in 21 lifetime starts.

Joining Ron the Greek and Fort Larned in the Foster are Alysheba winner Take Charge Indy, Ben Ali champ Successful Dan, 2011 Foster winner Pool Play and last year's co-winner of the Travers Stakes Golden Ticket.

Here is the field for the Foster in post position order: Golden Ticket, Joel Rosario; Fort Larned, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano; Take Charge Indy, Rosie Napravnik; Pool Play, Miguel Mena and Successful Dan, Julien Leparoux.

The approximate post-time for the Foster on Saturday is 9:40 p.m. ET.

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