LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Brad Cox entered the final two days of racing at the Churchill Downs Spring Meet with a one-win lead over Mike Maker and Brendan Walsh for the trainer’s title. The Louisville-native conditioner will attempt to secure his fourth leading trainer crown with nine horses entered Friday and Saturday led by Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stable’s Warrior’s Charge in the $600,000 Stephen Foster (Grade II).
“We had a great meet and hope to close it out strong with some very quality horses entered over the next two days,” said Cox, who recorded his 300th Churchill Downs victory Friday with Cryo for his 18th win of the meet.
Among Cox’s nine scheduled runners over the next two days is multiple Grade III winner Warrior’s Charge, who was tabbed at 6-1 on the morning line for the Stephen Foster.
“He has a pretty quick turn of foot,” Cox said. “His speed has put him close to the early pace in nearly every one of his starts.”
Throughout Warrior’s Charge’s 15-race career, he has not made the early lead in only three of his starts including his most recent race where he was off extremely slow in the $400,000 Steve Sexton Mile (GIII) at Lone Star Park.
Saturday’s Stephen Foster features Godolphin’s Grade I-winner Maxfield as the 4-5 morning line favorite. The Brendan Walsh-trainee galloped about 1 ½ miles early Friday morning at Churchill Downs. Walsh will be the featured guest Friday on “InsideChurchill Downs” at 6:15 p.m. (all times Eastern) on ESPN 680/105.7. The one-hour show is also streamed live on www.espnlouisville.com.
One race prior to the Stephen Foster, Cox will start Juddmonte’s eight-time winning homebred Set Piece (GB) as the 8-5 morning line choice in the $300,000 Wise Dan (GII). Set Piece (GB) will attempt his third-consecutive win this meet after victories in the $105,000 Opening Verse and $85,000 Douglas Park Overnight Stakes.
“He’s run some of his best race here at Churchill,” Cox said. “The timing of this race set up well for us with the two other turf stakes earlier in the meet. We think he’s rounding into top form this year. We got him from Juddmonte last year and thought a lot of him and he keeps improving.”
Also on Saturday’s card, Cox entered Vault in the $300,000 Fleur de Lis (GII), Royal Prince in the $150,000 War Chant and Adventuring in the $150,000 Tepin.
With 23 races remaining in the meet, Cox had an 18-17 win lead over Maker and Walsh. Record 24-time leader Steve Asmussen sat just behind at 15 wins, and began Friday with 9,390 career victories, just 55 shy of the sport’s all-time leading trainer Dale Baird’s targeted mark of 9,445.
Saturday’s first race is 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Stephen Foster will go as Race 11 with a post time of 5:59 p.m.
The 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events for the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and $2 million Longines Distaff, respectively. The winners will receive an all entry fees paid berth to the season ending championship event on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Tickets are available for Saturday’s closing day program online at www.churchilldowns.com/tickets. Admission gates will open at 11:30 a.m. and “Churchill Downs Today” will air at 11:45 a.m. throughout the racetrack and on www.TwinSpires.com, the official online wagering provider of Churchill Downs Incorporated.
Saturday’s program also will air on “America’s Day at the Races” on Fox Sports 2 from 12:30-6:30 p.m.
Churchill Downs Press Release
Photo: Brad Cox, (Churchill Downs/Coglianese)