2023 Clark Stakes at a Glance

Churchill Downs, Clark Stakes, Eclipse Sportswire
Fans at Churchill Downs keep an eye on the racehorses in the paddock in this file photo. (Eclipse Sportswire)

One last chance for older dirt horses to claim a marquee victory in 2023 comes Friday in the $600,000 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs. The Grade 2 race will not change any Eclipse Awards ballots, but it could showcase a major threat for the biggest winter tests in 2024, the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes, Saudi Cup, and Dubai World Cup.

Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare

Racetrack: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

Date: Nov. 24

Purse: $600,000

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Race: 11

Post Time: 5:48 p.m. ET

Notable winners: Tom’s d’Etat (2019), Gun Runner (2016), Hoppertunity (2014), Will Take Charge (2013), Shackleford (2012), Wise Dan (2011), Blame (2009), Saint Liam (2004), Silver Charm (1998), Golden Don (1973), Crimson Satan (1962), Whirlaway (1942), Exterminator (1922), Old Rosebud (1917).

First held: 1875

1. Straight Arrow (8-1 morning-line odds): Comes in off a sharp win in the Empire Classic Stakes for New York State-breds. Looks to be in career-best form but will face his toughest test in this field.

JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Mike Dini

2. First Mission (3-1): Trainer Brad Cox liked this 3-year-old’s chances in the Preakness Stakes until an injury knocked him out of the classic. Returned six months later with a game allowance win and his sharp workouts since then indicate he’s poised for a big effort here.

JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Brad Cox

3. Il Miracolo (4-1): Three-year-old has blossomed  with a string of competitive efforts in graded stakes. In his first try against older horses, he was second by a head in the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes at Keeneland. If he takes a step forward off that, he’ll be a major player.

JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Antonio Sano                                                  

4. Gasoline (5-1): Caught fire last time out, winning by more than five lengths in a Churchill Downs allowance race. Displayed some promise early in his career and cannot be ignored here. 

JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher

5. Trademark (6-1): Didn’t fire in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes but was in great form before that. Put in a sharp blowout for this race and is a candidate to bounce back with a strong effort.

JOCKEY: Fernando De La Cruz; TRAINER: Victoria Oliver

6. Film Star (5-1): Ran competitively enough in Grade 2 stakes, finishing fourth in the Forty Niner Stakes and second in the Woodward Stakes. Matches up nicely with most of the field and should not be ignored. 

JOCKEY: Jose Lezcano; TRAINER: Linda Rice

7. Giant Game (12-1): Was a distant second to Gasoline in the allowance race and has yet to show he can be a factor at this Grade 2 level.

JOCKEY: Martin Garcia; TRAINER: Dale Romans

8. Happy American (20-1): Was a rallying third in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes in July, but he’s a toss out after two weak efforts in his last two tries.

JOCKEY: Declan Cannon; TRAINER: Neil Pessin

9. Stage Raider (12-1): Half-brother to Justify was no factor in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and faces a tough task here from this post position.

JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez; TRAINER: Cherie DeVaux

10. Blue Devil (10-1): Was a rallying third in the Lukas Classic Stakes at 14-1 and will be a contender off his best try. Getting the outside post did not help his cause.

JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Jeff Hiles

THE PICK: First Mission



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