DG Derby winner Kitodan resumes racing in KD Preview Turf Cup

Grace Clark photo: Kitodan winning last year’s Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.

Video interview with Eric Foster and Kitodan

HENDERSON, Ky. — Trainer and co-owner Eric Foster had to regroup last year when Churchill Downs’ canceled its Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes. Plan B was running his $80,000 claim Kitodan against older horses in Ellis Park’s mile turf stakes. Kitodan finished a good fifth that day, then gave Foster and his co-owners Doug Miller and Bill Wargel their first graded-stakes victory in Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Dueling Grounds Derby, then worth $750,000, at 20-1 odds.

Kitodan — a $9,000 yearling who has earned $779,641 — went on to be selected the National HBPA’s Claiming Horse of the Year and also was the KTDF’s Horse of the Year, based on the most KTDF earnings in 2022.

A minor injury kept Kitodan out of the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. The 4-year-old resumes racing in Sunday’s $250,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at 1 1/4 miles.

“I almost think that’s better than going wide open for a mile; I think they get a little time to get a breather at a mile and a quarter,” Foster said of running the longer distance after an 11-month layoff. “I just think that’s the distance he wants.”

The major objective is the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles, a Grade 2 stakes whose winner gets a fees-paid berth in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

“We’re excited to go back down there because he likes that track,” Foster said of Kentucky Downs. “We’re still excited to win every race we could win. But that boost in the money helped a lot, I’ll tell you that. That’s quite a bit of money at one time to let us do things we want and to be able to reinvest some of that in the barn.”

Foster not only has a barn but a farm in Utica. “We were already planning to do fencing, so it helped pay for that,” he said, adding of the therapeutic electromagnetic devices for horses and other purchases, “… Just being able to go get what you want rather than getting what you can afford — it’s a big deal. A lot of times when you win a regular race, it just gets you caught up. When you win a big one, you get a little bounce, it helps your morale and it helps the whole barn.”

Francisco Arrieta picks up the mount.

As Kitodan heads into his 2023 debut, Foster said: “I think he’s doing great. I’m really excited for him, (but) I don’t want to put a jinx on him. Being the first race off a layoff, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t improve the second start. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if he wins easy. I’m not going to write him off if he doesn’t win.”

Foster also is running Pure Panic in Sunday’s $200,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint.