The $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic may have decided several of horse racing’s championships, but the $750,000 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs offers a highly interesting race featuring a few of the year’s top performers.
While it’s unlikely to change any Eclipse Awards ballots, the Clark could showcase some of the key players in next year’s major races, such as the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Saudi Cup, and Dubai World Cup.
1. Midnight Bourbon (8-5 morning-line odds): He’s one of the best members of a stellar 3-year-old class. He skipped the Breeders’ Cup after finishing second to Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality in consecutive races. He drew the rail here which should enable him to work out a good trip under Joel Rosario, who seems destined to enjoy a record-breaking year. He’s working great and will be a major force here.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
2. Night Ops (15-1): He was a big threat at the Grade 3 level but has struggled in his last two starts against better competition. He’ll need to take a big step forward to be a factor here.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Brad Cox
3. Dr Post (5-1): He’s been facing some of the best older horses and comes off a pair of thirds in the Woodward and TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. He should be able to rate off the pace and stage a late rally, making him a threat should the fractions get torrid and the leaders back up.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
4. Happy Saver (8-1): He’s a Grade 1 winner but that was at a longer 1 ¼-mile distance. He’s never turned in a bad effort, finishing third or better in his seven starts. He’s a main factor here but some of the others seem faster at this distance.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
5. King Fury (12-1): He’s a bit of a hard read. He seemed to be on a nice upswing, then finished a distant third in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes. The track was wet but he was a stakes winner on that racetrack on a wet surface before. If he can rebound on a dry track, he should be in the picture at the end. King Fury has won three of four starts at Churchill.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
6. Chess Chief (30-1): He’s winless in five starts dating back to the New Orleans Classic in March and faces a tough task here.
JOCKEY: Joe Talamo; TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
7. Militarist (50-1): He was fifth in the Fayette when running in a stakes for the first time. Maybe he didn’t care for the wet track, but there’s little to be found in his past performances to indicate he’s ready to handle a field of this quality.
JOCKEY: Rafael Bejarano; TRAINER: Carlo Vaccarezza
8. Maxfield (6-5): He was a Horse of the Year contender until he ran second in the Whitney and Woodward Stakes. He skipped the Breeders’ Cup Classic to point for this and has trained sharply. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 at Churchill Downs, adding to his appeal. The lone concern is the outside post.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Brendan Walsh
THE PICK: Midnight Bourbon
LIVE LONGSHOTS: Happy Saver, King Fury