Moonshine Mullin’s rags-to-riches story became considerably more compelling on Saturday night at Churchill Downs when he won the $552,500 Stephen Foster Handicap and punched his ticket to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Three times this year, Moonshine Mullin was entered for a claiming price. He was available for $40,000 twice and for $80,000 on March 27, but there were no takers. Instead the six-year-old by Albert the Great has taken owner Randy Patterson and trainer Randy Morse on a five-race winning streak during which he has earned $635,927.
The Grade 1 Stephen Foster is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series, so Moonshine Mullin’s victory earned him a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.
Moonshine Mullin entered the Stephen Foster off a game, front-running victory in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes on the May 2 Kentucky Oaks undercard. He battled back after being passed in that race and he showed the same determination in the Stephen Foster, albeit against better competition.
After stalking pacesetter Jaguar Paw through the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster, Moonshine Mullin seized command on the final turn. Multiple graded stakes winner Departing rallied to take a short lead near the top of the stretch but Moonshine Mullin fought back gamely on the inside under Calvin Borel and powered to a clear lead.
Champion Will Take Charge launched a late rally but never seriously threatened the victor. He edged Departing in the closing strides for second.
Moonshine Mullin completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.66 to improve to nine wins, four seconds and five thirds from 32 career starts. The $328,848 winner’s share of the purse lifted Moonshine Mullin’s career earnings to $1,014,361.
“It was awesome, absolutely awesome,” Patterson said. “This was my first Grade 1 win, the Alysheba was my first Grade 2 win, and coming down that stretch today I was just like, ‘this is not supposed to happen with a claiming horse.’ ”
Sent off at 10-1 odds, Mooneshine Mullin paid $22 for a $2 win bet and was the key to a $102.20 exacta along with 2.60-1 favorite Will Take Charge.
Although the Alysheba was Moonshine Mullin’s first graded stakes win, he showed class earlier in his career. He won a stakes race in Canada as a 3-year-old and also finished second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. As a 4-year-old, his one victory in nine starts was his only top-three finish, and then in his first two starts at five he was entered for a $25,000 claiming price. Morse claimed him on behalf of Patterson for $40,000 in November 2013 and he has recorded five wins, one third and one fourth since the claim en route to becoming one of the top older males in the country.
“I usually tend to be pretty conservative, but when he drew the three post with how well as he’s trained the past week, I was pretty sure we were going to run him,” Morse said. “If he never wins another race, it’s been a great ride. But as good as he’s doing, who knows? You never know; that’s one thing about this sport, they come from everywhere.”