Clark Highlights Big Weekend at Churchill Downs

The G1 Clark Handicap on Friday and the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program on Saturday highlight a big weekend at Churchill Downs. 

Game on Dude leads a strong field of handicap horses in the Friday feature at Churchill Downs, the $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1). Trained by Bob Baffert, the son of Awesome Again didn’t fire his best shot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last time but is a pillar of fine performances and Grade 1 wins, and the race will go through him. The gelding should be on or just off the early tempo of this race.

Classic (G1) runner-up Will Take Charge has had a fine second half of the season for trainer D Wayne Lukas and the sophomore colt looms large with another top try. The son of Unbridled’s Song has been first or second in four straight huge showings and will be trying to wrap up an Eclipse Award with a victory in this one. Bourbon Courage was a close third in this race in 2012 and can’t be ignored for conditioner Kellyn Gorder. Graded star Easter Gift, Dale Romans’ Finnegans Wake, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) second Golden Ticket and the Steve Asmussen-trained Prayer for Relief, are also ones to watch in this strong cast.

The Saturday card will play host to a pair of graded races for juveniles, including the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) for the boys. The Pat Byrne-conditioned Almost Famous was a superb and facile allowance winner here leading up to this race and will be tough to knock off if he improves even a little in this spot. The well-meant son of Unbridled’s Song has speed but can run from anywhere, and he proved capable of this two-turn trip most recently.

Street Sense S. hero Coastline, the speedy Laddie Boy, a sharp allowance winner at Keeneland last out, the Bill Mott-trained Dobra Historia, who was second to Almost Famous last time, maiden winner Culprit and possibles All Cash, Ichiban Warrior and Bro Rodrigeaux, among the likely runners here.

The Golden Rod Stakes (G2) for the fillies looks like the next stopping point for excellent maiden heroine Bird Maker, Rags to Riches S. queen Clever Beauty, recent Mazarine S. (Can-G3) victress Madly Truly, the precocious Playful Love, Pocahontas S. (G2) runner-up Stonetastic and Vexed, second in the Rags to Riches in advance of this.

Thursday will play host to the $150,000 Falls City Handicap (G2), for fillies and mares going nine panels on the main oval. Nine have been entered in what looks like a fine betting race. Flashy American, Ice Cream Silence, Wine Princess and Don’t Tell Sophia are among the top draws in the group.