The Breeders’ Cup World Championships may be in the rearview mirror, but on Friday some of the top members of the older male division will get one more chance to strut their stuff before they turn a year older.
The Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare Friday at Churchill Downs will not crown a champion, yet it will give the connections of 14 runners a chance to chase a Grade 1 victory and a $500,000 purse while also providing bettors a great wagering opportunity.
1. Crafty Daddy (20-1 morning-line odds): He’s probably better on turf, though his last three starts were on dirt. One was a stakes win in the Opening Verse, but that race was switched from the turf. A seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes against several starters in this race are better indicators of the uphill climb he faces.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez Jr.; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
2. Title Ready (15-1): He was third in the Fayette, only beaten a length, but then flopped in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. He usually turns in a competitive effort but seems a notch below the top contenders.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie; TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
3. Code of Honor (3-1): He came into this year as a favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But cancellations in the spring jammed up his races and he didn’t respond. Trainer Shug McGaughey is happy with both the way his races are now spaced and his recent workouts, so look for a big effort here from the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve runner-up.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Shug McGaughey
4. Multiplier (15-1): He’s 0-for-16 in 2019-’20 and lost by a combined 21 ¾ lengths in his last two Grade 2 stakes, weakening his chances here, even with a hot rider like Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Peter Miller
5. Aurelius Maximus (8-1): His return to stakes competition in the Fayette was a dandy as he showed a great deal of determination while pressing the pace and battling to the end while losing by a neck. If he moves forward off that try, he’ll be a major factor here.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
6. Plus Que Parfait (30-1): He’s lost nine straight since taking the United Arab Emirates Derby in March 2019. His best showing was a second in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, but he lost by 7 ½ lengths that day and he’s a big longshot, at best, here.
JOCKEY: Robby Albarado; TRAINER: Brendan Walsh
7. Mr Freeze (6-1): Has turned in some of his best efforts in two-turn, 1 1/8-mile races — like a win in the Fayette and a second in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes — and should be well-suited by these conditions. He was third in last year’s Clark and should be right there at the finish once again.
JOCKEY: David Cohen; TRAINER: Dale Romans
8. Bodexpress (8-1): Considering he’s yet to win a stakes, he’s probably best-known for losing his rider in the 2019 Preakness Stakes. But he’s coming off a huge, 11 ¼-length allowance win at Gulfstream Park West and, if he can duplicate that performance here, he’ll be a main threat. That’s a big if, but if the odds are high enough, he’s worth a long look.
JOCKEY: Rafael Bejarano; TRAINER: Gustavo Delgado
9. Owendale (5-1): Runner-up in last year’s Clark, he’s been knocking on the door for a major win. A multiple Grade 3 winner, he was second in the Alysheba Stakes presented by Sentient Jet here at Churchill Downs and Pimlico Special Stakes before a sluggish start cost him any chance of being a factor in the Big Ass fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Back at a 1 1/8-mile distance, he should return to top form.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Brad Cox
10. Bourbon Calling (30-1): Has spent most of career sprinting and though he was second in the one-mile Ack Ack Stakes here, expecting a big effort in a Grade 1 stakes while racing at 1 1/8 miles for the first time seems to be asking a bit too much of him.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux; TRAINER: Ian Wilkes
11. Coastal Defense (20-1): His initial foray into stakes competition was a promising fourth in the Fayette, in which he lost by only 1 ¼ lengths. He’s worked nicely since then and, if he shows any improvement at all, he will be slugging it out at the finish. He’s definitely worth using in your exotics to pump up the payoffs.
JOCKEY: Joe Talamo; TRAINER: Dale Romans
12. By My Standards (4-1): By anyone’s standard, he should be a main contender here. Before he failed to fire in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he won the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs and was second in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes. The big questions are how much the Classic took out of him and will he be hurt by post-position 12 with his stalking style. If that concerns you, others in this race will offer far more value.
JOCKEY: Gabriel Saez; TRAINER: Bret Calhoun
13. Phantom Currency (50-1): Another turfer who benefitted from a race being moved to the main track and landed in the winner’s circle. But winning a non-winners of two allowance race against turf horses on the main track and beating proven Grade 1 runners on their preferred surface of dirt are two vastly different challenges that paint him as an outsider here.
JOCKEY: Declan Cannon; TRAINER: Brian Lynch
14. Silver Prospector (15-1): He did beat Tiz the Law a year ago at Churchill Downs, which sounds good on one level. It means he certainly likes the Louisville track, where he has two wins in three tries. But Tiz the Law is hardly a fan of Churchill Downs, which is the downside. He put in a sharp comeback win last month after a layoff of nearly 14 months and he owns Grade 2 and Grade 3 wins, but trying to beat a field this good from post-position 14 seems too formidable of a challenge for him — unless it rains. Don’t forget that win over Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Jockey Club came on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
JOCKEY: Gerardo Corrales; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
15. In Love (50-1): He’s on the also-eligible list, so he’ll need someone to scratch to secure a spot in the starting gate, but there’s little in his past performances to indicate he’ll be a factor from the outside post if he gets to run. His lone dirt win came more than a year ago in Argentina.
JOCKEY: Robby Albarado; TRAINER: Paulo Lobo
THE PICK: Code of Honor
LIVE LONGSHOT: Coastal Defense