(Featured Picture Money’soncharlotte / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)

Baffert Santa Anita

Bob Baffert with his son, Bode. Photo credit: Santa Anita

Faithfully has been awfully faithful to Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert. Every time her boss has needed a prime contender for a major stakes race, she has been right there. Every time her leader has needed someone to go out and give it their all, she has stood up and stood out. Every time her conditioner has needed her, she has responded.

After all, the 4-year-old daughter has run against the likes of Paradise Woods, Stellar Wind, roommate Val Dori, She’s a Warrior and Alotta Skirt in her career. She has tried the Grade 1 Zenyatta, the Grade 1 Clement L Hirsch. And, through it all, she has put together a rather impressive record of 3 wins, 6 seconds and 1 thirds in just 11 lifetime starts. The only time that Faithfully has missed the top three spots was in her career debut, a long, long time ago.

But now, on Thursday, a Day of Thanksgiving, Faithfully will get her chance to be the shinning star in the barn of shinning stars. She will try to win her first Graded Stakes race. She will be the lynchpin for Team Baffert in the 102nd running of the $200,000, Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs — the centerpiece of a 12-race Thanksgiving Day holiday racing feast.

George Hall’s Money’soncharlotte, winner of the Grade III Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park this summer, and Windsor Boys Racing, Bruce Lunsford, and J.G. Sikura’s Faithfully, runner-up in the Grade I Zenyatta at Santa Anita in September, loom as major contenders in a competitive group of seven fillies and mares entered in Thursday’s 102nd running $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GII) – the centerpiece of a 12-race Thanksgiving holiday racing feast at Churchill Downs.

Thanksgiving’s renewal of the Falls City is scheduled as the 10th event on a 12-race program that begins with a special first race post time of 11:30 a.m. (all times EST). The Falls City shares the holiday racing spotlight with the 40th running of the $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The Falls City has a scheduled post time of 3:53 p.m., while the River City is set for 4:22 p.m.

It won’t be all that easy for Faithfully, though.

Money’soncharlotte — owned by George Hall and trained by Kelly Breen — was most recently the runner-up in the $200,000 Chilukki (GII) over one mile on Nov. 4. The 5-year-old mare has run one other time at Churchill Downs, finishing 13th in the 2015 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Money’soncharlotte’s 2017 campaign began swiftly with a 5 ½-length victory at Parx in an allowance race. Successive victories at Monmouth Park in the $75,000 Lady Secret Stakes and $100,000 Molly Pitcher (GIII) led Money’soncharlotte to a run at Thistledown in the $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes, which resulted in a 1 ¼-length victory. The only blemish on the bay mare’s résumé this year is a runner-up effort behind Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) contender Elate in Belmont Park’s Beldame.

Money’soncharlotte (23-7-4-2—$574,795) drew the rail and Corey Lanerie will have the call.

Faithfully (11-3-6-1—$268,600) was most recently defeated 5 ¼ lengths by Paradise Woods in the Sept. 30 Zenyatta. The 4-year-old filly by Smart Strike won the June 4 Santa Lucia Stakes prior to a third-place finish in the July 30 Clement L. Hirsch (GI) and runner-up effort in the Aug. 25 Tranquility Lake Stakes.

Faithfully will break from post 4 with Robby Albarado aboard.

Both Money’soncharlotte and Faithfully are the co-starting high weights and will carry 120 pounds, two to five pounds more than their five rivals.

Merriebelle Stable’s Blue Prize (Arg) (9-2-6-1—$211,100) enters the Falls City off a third-place finish in the Oct. 8 Spinster (GI) at Keeneland behind Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) contender Romantic Vision. The Ignacio Correas IV-trainee drew post 5 with jockey James Graham to ride.

The complete field for the Falls City from the rail out (with jockey, assigned weight and morning line odds): Money’soncharlotte (Lanerie, 120 pounds, 3-1); Rachel’s Temper(Ricardo Santana Jr., 115, 15-1); Weep No More (Brian Hernandez Jr., 115, 20-1); Faithfully (Albarado, 120, 1-1); Blue Prize (Arg) (Graham, 118, 6-1); Motown Lady (Joe Rocco Jr., 118, 5-1); Tiger Moth (Florent Geroux, 117, 10-1).

The Falls City dates back to the first racing meet in 1875 at the track then known as the Louisville Jockey Club, but unlike the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), the Kentucky Oaks and Friday’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – all of which made their debuts in that first local racing meet and have been run annually since – there have been some gaps in its renewals through the years. Through its history the 1 1/8-mile Falls City has provided a stage for both rising stars and fillies and mares who are preparing to end their racing days and embark on a new career in the breeding shed.

Racing on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition since 1969 where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region.

(Shinning Copper / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs & Coady Photography)

River City Handicap:

In the other major stakes on Thursday, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Shining Copper, winner of the $100,000 Lure at Saratoga in 2016 and an allowance at Keeneland in his last start, will be the 119-pound starting high weight in an overflow field for Thursday’s 40th running of the $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs.

The River City Handicap, run at 1 1/8 miles on turf, joins the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GII), a 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares, on Thursday’s special 12-race holiday program. The first race begins early at 11:30 a.m. (all times EST) with the Falls City set as Race 10 at 3:53 p.m. and the River City as Race 11 at 4:22 p.m. The final race of the day is scheduled for 4:50 p.m.

Fifteen horses were entered for the popular River City grass event but only a maximum of 14 will start.

Shining Copper (30-7-4-7—$640,129), a 7-year-old gelding trained by Mike Maker, led wire-to-wire to a 3 ¼-length score in a conditioned-allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 15, his second start off an 11-month layoff. A former $62,500 claim by Maker, Shining Copper was narrowly defeated in the 2016 Arlington Million (GI) by The Pizza Man and Big Blue Kitten. Shining Copper will break from post 5 with leading rider Corey Lanerieaboard.

Chief among Shining Copper’s rivals is Calumet Farm, Sagamore Farm, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ War Correspondent. The Christophe Clement-trainee was a one-length victor as the heavy favorite in the April 29 Miami Mile (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and the third-place finisher in the Presque Isle Downs Mile on Sept. 17. War Correspondent drew post 12 with Julien Leparoux aboard.

Some In Time, Inc’s Louisville Handicap (GIII) hero Some In Tieme (Brz) (11-4-2-1—$414,585) makes his second start following his three-length victory on May 20 for trainer Kenny McPeek. Jockey Manny Cruz has the call and will break from post 10.

Randall Bloch, Phil Milner, John Seiler, and Amtietam, LLC’s Thatcher Street (32-5-8-10—$442,893) will have to overcome drawing the outside post but boasts a local record of 9-4-2-2. The 6-year-old son of Street Sense was defeated in the Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 7 when Sir Dudley Digges, who subsequently scored an allowance victory on Nov. 12 at Churchill Downs, poked his head in front in the final stages of the race. Trained by Ian Wilkes, Thatcher Street will be ridden by his son-in-law Chris Landeros.

Owner/trainer C. R. Trout’s Shotgun Kowboy (21-9-5-2—$985,927) will attempt turf for only the second time in his career as he looks to vault over $1 million in purse earnings. The 5-year-old gelding by Kodiak Kowboy defeated a field of 10 rivals in the Oct. 20 Oklahoma Classics Cup at Remington Park. The Oklahoma-bred’s only turf try resulted in a runner-up finish in an allowance race on Aug. 13, 2016 at Remington Park. James Grahamhas the riding assignments and will break from post 13.

The complete River City Handicap field from the rail out (with jockey, assigned weight and morning line odds): Turf Titan (Brian Hernandez Jr., 113 pounds, 50-1); Team Colors (Jose Lezcano, 114, 30-1); Zulu Alpha (Jon Court, 113, 50-1); Christian C (Channing Hill, 114, 30-1); Shining Copper (Lanerie, 119, 3-1); Revved Up (Robby Albarado, 117, 9-2); Vettori Kin(Brz) (Florent Geroux, 116, 30-1); Applicator (Calvin Borel, 116, 12-1); Coco Mon (Joe Rocco Jr., 118, 5-1); Some In Tieme (Brz) (Cruz, 116, 15-1) Kasaqui (Arg) (Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 5-1); War Correspondent (Leparoux, 118, 4-1); Shotgun Kowboy (Graham, 115, 13-1); Thatcher Street (Landeros, 116, 15-1).

Stephen Wigmore’s Gostisbehere (Dean Sarvis, 109, 50-1) is on the also eligible-list and could draw in if any late scratches occur.