The $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs on Friday and has attracted a field of 12 with only one three-year-old.
Top Clark Stakes Picks
- 2 Tom’s d’Etat
- 8 Owendale
- 9 Mr Freeze
- 7 Mr. Buff
- $40 Exacta: 2 with 8
- $20 Exacta: 2 with 7, 9
The Clark Stakes contenders
#1 DRAFT PICK finished up last year in decent shape but only has an allowance win to show this year. His second in the Pacific Classic (G1) was his best effort but the form of that race has not held up very well. He would have to repeat that race to have a chance but at least he draws the rail and gets Joe Talamo.
#2 TOM’S D’ETAT has emerged as a top handicap horse at the age of six for Al Stall Jr. He was a good third here going this distance in the Stephen Foster (G2) back in June then he won for fun at Saratoga in very fast time. The victim of an indifferent ride from Jose Ortiz in the Woodward (G1), he bounced back with a sharp win over a sloppy track at Keeneland last out. Unlike in the past, when he had many gaps on his schedule, he is racing consistently now and it enables him to be trained stronger. Joel Rosario returns for the ride.
#3 MOCITO ROJO won the Lukas Classic (G3) here two starts back going this distance then was no match on a sloppy track at Keeneland last out. He has raced all over the country and has a pace-stalking running style that travels well. Has to be respected off two Grade 3 stakes wins this year and his versatility.
#4 MAJOR CABBIE was stuck at the allowance/optional claimer class level out in California for Peter Miller. Like many of his shippers, he woke up on the dirt at Keeneland going two turns then came back there to do it again. He has strong early speed, draws well and gets an aggressive rider, Paco Lopez, to ride.
#5 SNAPPER SINCLAIR spent the winter at Oaklawn Park for Steve Asmussen and was stakes-placed once. He won a one-turn mile allowance event here on a sloppy track then was a good third at Mountaineer Park where he earned his career-best BRIS speed rating of 102. A win on the turf at Kentucky Downs sent him to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) last out where he did not run bad. His “A” game is not as good as the others’ “A” games but he seems to be able to run over anything.
#6 FACT FINDING returned to the dirt after racing on turf six starts in a row and he promptly won a seven-furlong allowance event here in fast time. He followed that up with a similar win going the same distance at Keeneland and now stretches back out to nine furlongs. He has good early speed and likes the track here but does not have a BRIS speed rating that would make him eligible for a Grade 1 win.
#7 MR. BUFF could be the one to catch if Junior Alvarado sends him from the start. He has done most of his winning against New York-breds but is very fast and has won seven times at this distance. John Kimmel has a strong record with his shippers and Junior Alvarado does extremely well with his route mounts. The bulky field works to his advantage if he can get loose on the lead.
#8 OWENDALE is the only three-year-old in the race and he had a terrific year with three graded stakes victories. He ran well in the Travers (G1) going 1 1/4 miles then won the Oklahoma Derby (G3) in a wide trip from post 10 going this distance. Throw out his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) where he had a very rough trip and his workouts here looks like he has bounced back nicely. Florent Geroux wins 30% when he rides for Brad Cox.
#9 MR FREEZE is a horse for the course that won the Ack Ack (G3) here going a one-turn mile in very fast time. He could not hang on in the Fayette (G2) on the sloppy track at Keeneland but he has the highest BRIS speed rating at today’s distance. I question his ability to finish strong against top company but Robby Albarado should be able to work out a stalking trip from post nine.
#10 BRAVAZO missed by a neck in this race last year when he stalked the pace and his long surge fell a neck short. He came back with a poor effort in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and has been off for 307 days. D. Wayne Lukas only wins 6% off long layoffs. This is a tough spot to resume.
#11 SEEKING THE SOUL is a horse for the course that won this race in 2017 and finished third last year. The conventional wisdom is that you cannot ignore a Dallas Stewart-trainee in a big dirt stakes but I don’t see him bouncing back. I could be wrong but you are not going to get the juicy odds to make it worth the risk.
#12 PIONEER SPIRIT has to overcome a poor post but at least he has some gate speed to use in the run into the first turn. He was claimed for an amazing $150K last out by Robertino Diodoro (25% with this move and the last 488 of them show a flat-bet profit) and comes back 27 days later off a career-best performance at the age of six.