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Stephen Foster Stakes Odds: Truly a Race Where Anyone Can Win

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated June 27, 2023
7 min read

Stephen Foster Stakes Odds and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the Stephen Foster Stakes at Ellis Park!










J Rosario

M Stidham





K Desormeaux

E Moger Jr





L Saez

R Moquett





B J Hernandez Jr

K McPeek





C Lanerie

K McPeek





F Prat

B Cox





C Torres

D W Lukas





J Graham

N Pessin

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Stephen Foster Stakes Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Smile Happy over Proxy, Stilleto Boy, and Rattle N Roll = $30 
  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Proxy, Stilleto Boy, and Rattle N Roll over Smile Happy = $30 
  • If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Smile Happy (7/2).    



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Stephen Foster Stakes Predictions

Proxy and Smile Happy, both impressive Grade 2 winners last time out headline a contentious field of eight older males in Saturday’s $1,000,000 Stephen Foster at Ellis Park. 

Truly a race where anyone can win, seven of the eight starters in the 9-furlong, Grade 1 race are graded stakes winners this year, and the only horse that isn’t missed by a nose in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special last out. 

Proxy, who just missed in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap before winning the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap most recently, could be a tepid top choice with the betters.

Trained by Michael Stidham, the son of Tapit earned his first Grade 1 victory in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in his final start of 2022.

Smile Happy, meanwhile, joins stablemate Rattle N Roll as a strong duo for trainer Kenny McPeek. 

A son of Runhappy, he has won half of his eight-lifetime starts. A grade stakes winner as a juvenile, the 4-year-old comes in off a sharp victory in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Rattle N Roll enters as the hottest horse in the stacked field having scored in three consecutive Grade 3 stakes races. 

A Grade 1 winner at 2, he won the Ben Ali at Keeneland in April, the Pimlico Special at Pimlico in May, and the Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs in June. Read our racetrack guide for Churchill Downs to learn more.

West Will Power, Stilleto Boy, and Last Samurai, all millionaires, add to the depth of Saturday’s Stephen Foster, which will be held at Ellis Park due to the temporary closure of Churchill Downs.

Stephen Foster Stakes Predictions and Race Analysis


This son of Tapit has always been a good horse, but has made more progress of late with three big performances in his last four starts. He got his first Grade 1 win late last year, and after a mediocre performance in the Pegasus World Cup, he has come back with two strong efforts. 

His rally just missed Stilleto Boy in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap two starts back, before determinedly catching tha rival while winning the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap last out. 

Trained by Michael Stidham, the Godolphin runner should be poised for another solid performance here, but once again, it will not be easy to run down all the quality horses that will be ahead of him early.

Smile Happy

The first of two from the Kenny McPeek barn, this son of Runhappy looks to have the most upside in the field. An impressive Grade 2 winner as a juvenile, he has still only started eight career times. He got a long rest after fading a bit in last year’s Kentucky Derby, and has come back strong in 2023. 

After a nice return win over Speed Bias, he was beaten in a one-mile stake race, but bounced back strongly last time with an impressive win in the Grade 2 Alysheba over Art Collector and West Will Power. 

This only gets tougher, but a repeat performance could be enough for another win. He has the speed to be involved early, and the closing kick to hold off the late runners. He is the top pick.

West Will Power

Off a powerhouse win in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic two starts back, this son of Bernardini was sent off as a big favorite over the likes of Smile Happy and Art Collector last out in the Alysheba. 

He was unable to fend them off in the stretch, but still ran another solid race. Twice an easy Grade 2 winner in his last five starts, at his best he is very dangerous. 

Unfortunately, he has come up a little short when pressured down the stretch, and that is likely to happen here. He is an obvious threat for trainer Brad Cox, but I do like a few others better.

Rattle N Roll

This son of Connect has been on quite the roll of late, winning three straight graded stakes races around the country. On Saturday, he will be in search of his fourth straight in as many months, and at four different tracks.  

Clearly never better than right now for trainer Kenny McPeek, he should also get a lively early pace to set up his strong late run. 

While he has beaten Speed Bias and Happy American in recent starts, he still must prove he can win against a field like this. I like his stablemate a little better, but he should be respected.

Stilleto Boy

This hard-trying son of Shackleford has split close decisions with Proxy in the last two and must be respected on Saturday. Two starts back he finally got his first Grade 1 win with a determined score in the Santa Anita Handicap. 

Last out, he battled all the way to the wire before narrowly finishing third in the Oaklawn Handicap. With good tactical speed, he can be on the lead or in close stalking position depending the way the early pace unfolds. 

Off his recent form, and his ability to run well no matter the track, he is once again in with a big shot on Saturday.

Last Samurai

After winning consecutive graded stakes races earlier this year at Oaklawn Park, he was second in a three-horse photo with Proxy and Stilleto Boy in the Oaklawn Handicap. 

He’s only had one race since and was a well beaten fourth behind Smile Happy in the Alysheba. That result follows a pattern for the son of Malibu Moon where he appears to be not as good away from Oaklawn Park. 

Given his latest result, and his other starts away from his favorite track, I am laying off the D. Wayne Lukas-trainee in this $1 million race.

Speed Bias

The only horse in the Foster field yet to win a graded stakes race, this Ron Moquett-trained colt came very close last time when he was just nipped by Rattle N Roll in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special. 

The late-developing son of Uncle Mo is one of several in the field with good early speed, and has been improving since breaking his maiden last fall at Keeneland. 

Beaten by Smile Happy three starts back, he will need to take another step forward if he is to make serious noise here. He should be heard from early, but I do like others better in this loaded field.

Happy American

This 5-year-old son of Runhappy likes to do his best running from the back of the pack. Most recently, he closed from last to finish third, two lengths behind Rattle N Roll in the Blame Stakes. 

It was his second straight defeat at the hands of the McPeek runner. Over the winter, he did win two straight stakes at Fair Grounds, but has lost his last four. 

He’s a nice horse, but against this field, the Neil Pessin-trained runner looks like the least likely winner of eight.



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How to Watch the Stephen Foster Stakes

Stephen Foster Stakes Race Information

  • What: Stephen Foster Stakes (Grade 1) 
  • Location: Ellis Park
  • Time: Saturday, July 1 -- 5:26 pm Eastern time
  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Purse: $1,000,000
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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

Horse Racing
Betting Picks
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
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