Bodexpress finally got his day.
The son of Bodemeister turned back multiple Grade 1 winner Code of Honor Nov. 27 to win the $500,000, Grade 1 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare by a length at odds of 11.70-1 at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Gustavo Delgado and campaigned by Top Racing, Global Thoroughbred, and GDS Racing Stable, Bodexpress came off an Oct. 17 allowance-level win at Gulfstream Park West to secure the first top-level victory of his career.
Bodexpress figured prominently in the first two legs of the 2019 Triple Crown after he finished second to Maximum Security in the 2019 Xpressbet Florida Derby. He was one of several horses interfered with by Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and infamously raced riderless two starts later in the Preakness Stakes after dropping Hall of Famer John Velazquez when he stumbled leaving the gate.
There was no such mishap on Friday as Bodexpress eked out the win after a thrilling cavalry charge to the finish. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile test was 1:49.12 on a fast track. Multiple graded stakes winner Owendale completed the trifecta.
Bodexpress was professional throughout in Friday's race. He broke alertly under first-time rider Rafael Bejarano, settled into a comfortable outside pressing position in the middle portion of the race, and then outkicked the competition. "When he came to the stretch, he showed a big turn of foot," said Bejarano.
The Clark was Bejarano's first Grade 1 win since he piloted Cupid to capture the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes in California in May 2017. Amid slumping business in California, the jockey relocated to ride in Kentucky and other tracks in the Midwest earlier this year.
Bodexpress earned $282,100 to increase his bankroll to $694,600. He has a 4-4-3 record from 17 starts.
Post-time 8-5 favorite Code of Honor, in traffic when sixth down the backstretch and on the second turn, rallied to grab second, a length in front Owendale in third.
"We had a nice position going into the backstretch. I followed the eventual winner thinking he was the horse to beat," said Velazquez, aboard Code of Honor in the Clark. "I got loose at the three-sixteenths pole. I came to him – he seemed to have another gear."
Coastal Defense was fourth, followed by multiple graded stakes winner Mr Freeze in fifth.
Gustavo Delgado Jr., assistant to his father, said Bodexpress would likely be pointed to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park Jan. 23. The South Florida-based colt finished fifth in this year's Pegasus to kick off his 4-year-old season.
"This is a different horse than we saw last year during the Triple Crown campaign," Delgado Jr. said. "He's really matured. Turning for home I thought we had a really good shot. The horse deserves this most of all. I'm very happy for everyone involved but we are so happy for Bodexpress."