Moonshine Mullin pulled off an upset in the Stephen Foster Handicap to become the first qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, holding off Will Take Charge by 1 3/4 lengths to win at Churchill Downs on Saturday night.
Ridden by Calvin Borel, Moonshine Mullin covered 1 1/8 mile in 1:49.66 and paid $22.00, $9.00 and $5.20.
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"I rode him with a lot of confidence today," said Borel, who has been aboard for Moonshine Mullin’s last three wins. "We were stepping up today. I knew we beat some of those same horses a few weeks back and early on I was afraid it may have taken too much out of him. But as we got closer, (trainer) Randy (Morse) had him ready to go."
Second betting choice Will Take Charge returned $4.60 and $3.40, while Departing paid $3.60.
Starting from the third post position at 10-1 despite entering with four straight wins, Moonshine Mullin quickly established himself as a contender in the $500,000 Grade I feature. The 6-year-old took control by the 3/4 mark and went on to win the first of six automatic qualifying races for the $5 million Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November.
Moonshine Mullin’s win follows last month’s Grade 2 Alysheba victory at Churchill Downs and improved him to 5-0-1 this year. He has won six of his last 11 starts with one second and two thirds, but this one was special for owner Randy Patterson despite being unsure of his next move with the horse.
"It was awesome, totally 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."
Jockey Gary Stevens guided Will Take Charge to a strong finish after starting slow and lagging behind for much of the race. Second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt recovered to charge hard from fourth in the stretch and close the gap on the winner while holding off Departing by a neck.
"He gave up a lot of ground around the turn, but he seemed to be happy there," Stevens said. "He showed up today."