Having a horse who is fond of a particular racetrack is nice. Having a 3-year-old who loves Churchill Downs is especially sweet as fans of Rich Strike know quite well. Aside from winning a little race known as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, he also owns a 17 1/4-length maiden win at the Louisville track along with a loss by a head in the Grade 2 Lukas Classic Stakes. On Friday, he will try to enjoy another feast at the Louisville track when he runs in the Grade 1 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare.
1. Proxy (7-2 morning-line odds): He’s consistent enough with 10 top three finishes in 12 career starts, but he has yet to win a stakes race. He’s a good bet for the exotics, especially since he runs well fresh, and with some racing luck from the rail, he might finally land in the winner’s circle. Interesting that jockey Joel Rosario is sticking with him after riding West Will Power last time.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Michael Stidham
2. Trademark (20-1): Looked good in an allowance race, but he’s struggled in stakes company and figures to be hard-pressed to pull out a win here.
JOCKEY: Martin Garcia; TRAINER: Victoria Oliver
3. Injunction (6-1): Seems to do his best running at a mile, as he did in an August stakes at Ellis Park, so the extra furlong could be troublesome. He was second in the one-mile Ack Ack Stakes here, and even if he doesn’t win, he has enough speed to keep West Will Power busy on the front end, which could have a major impact on the result.
JOCKEY: Rafael Bejarano; TRAINER: Carlo Vaccarezza
4. Rich Strike (2-1): You always have to respect the Kentucky Derby winner at Churchill Downs. While he hasn’t won since his 80-1 shocker in the run for the roses, this isn’t an outstanding field. His late kick makes him a strong factor and, unlike the first Saturday in May, if he wins it will not be much of a surprise.
JOCKEY: Sonny Leon; TRAINER: Eric Reed
5. Fulsome (6-1): Was a distant second to stablemate West Will Power in the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes and fifth behind Injunction in the Ack Ack. He’s won a few Grade 3 stakes in his career, but even though this is not a strong field he still seems a small notch below the main threats.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Brad Cox
6. Last Samurai (10-1): He was third in the Fayette, 7 ½ lengths behind West Will Power, in one of his better efforts since winning the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April. Continued improvement could make him a contender, but a victory seems to be asking a lot of him.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: D. Wayne Lukas
7. West Will Power (5-2): He turned in a career-best effort to win the Fayette in a front-running romp. Has the outside post here after breaking from the rail last time and should be pressed by Injunction, who beat him three starts ago in a stakes race at Ellis Park, which should make this test more challenging. If he gets a favorable pace scenario, he should prevail, but there are reasons to believe he will not cruise along as easily as he did in the Fayette.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Brad Cox
THE PICK: Proxy
LIVE LONGSHOT: Last Samurai