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Post Time: Clark on tap at Churchill on Black Friday

The last big handicap race of the year is on tap on Black Friday under the Twin Spires.

Churchill Downs in Louisville will be the site of a big card featuring the signature event of the Fall meet in the Clark Handicap. The Friday card will also features the Grade 2, $300,000 Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/6 miles on the turf.

The $600,000 Grade 2 Clark attracted 12 to enter the gate, with only one 3-year-old Owendale to join his older competitors over the 1 1/8-mile trek over the Churchill main.

First run in 1875, recent winners of the Clark include 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan and 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame. Triple Crown winner Whirlaway won the 1942 edition.

Here’s a look at the entries for the Clark (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis) which will be run as Race 11 at 5:56 p.m. at Churchill Downs:

1 – Draft Pick (Eurton, Talamo, 12-1). This son of Candy Ride has had a decent campaign, competing in graded competition throughout the year. His last graded victory was in the summer of 2018, winning the Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita. Might be a tough ask off the layoff, but Peter Eurton shows up from time to time in the big races.

2 –Tom’s d’Etat (Stall, Rosario, 8-5). The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike wears the morning line favorite role and is arguably the most accomplished horse in the race. His recency is good, winning the Grade 2 Fayette late last month down the road at Keeneland. He’s come up short in the bigger races here at Churchill and with a full field, he’s too short a price to back on top.

3 – Mocito Rojo (Wilson, Rodriguez, 15-1). Chestnut 5-year-old has excelled on the second circuit on tracks such as Remington and Delta Downs, but enters deeper waters against Grade 1 company on Friday. He’s 17-for-26 lifetime, with a Grade 3 win in the Lukas Classic in September on top of his resume. When stepping up in class in the Fayette, he faltered badly finishing seventh. The Lukas gives one pause and he’s not an automatic toss.

4 – Major Cabbie (Miller, Lopez, 10-1). With Paco in the irons of a front-runner there’s no doubt he’ll be on the engine from this inside post. Has the speed to wire it, but there’s other speed in the race that will keep him honest and he’ll likely fade in the stretch.

5 – Snapper Sinclair (Asmussen, Santana Jr., 8-1). Stretches out after a seventh-place effort in the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita, where he was forced to steady at the 3/16-pole. Connections are dangerous, but this colt seems to find trouble and in a race with a fairly full field coming from behind could stunt his potential.

6 – Fact Finding (Lopresti, Lanerie, 8-1). Hometown jock aboard the son of the Factor comes in on a two-race win streak in optional claimers at 7 furlongs, which seems to be the better distance for him. Doesn’t appear to have enough speed to carry him the 9-furlong journey on the main.

7 – Mr. Buff (Kimmel, Alvarado, 5-1). He’s been a champ in nongraded stakes and a dud against graded company. The son of Friend or Foe is 7-for-10 at the distance and will make his Churchill debut in the Clark. Likely to be challenging the front-runners early and will need to break well to have a chance. If he can translate his success at the distance against a relatively ho-hum field, he could pull this off. Dangerous.

8 – Owendale (Cox, Geroux, 15-1). My Preakness pick didn’t enjoy the deep Santa Anita track in the Classic and had traffic trouble on the far turn. He’s had success at 9 furlongs and will be coming late for trainer Brad Cox. Draw a line through the Classic and use him at these odds in the exotics.

9 – Mr. Freeze (Romans, Albarado, 15-1). Another horse to consider at these odds for hometown connections. Faded to second in the Fayette with the added distance. Won the West Virginia Derby last year as a sophomore at the distance convincingly so he can get the 9 furlongs. The son of To Honor and Serve is a horse for the course with two wins in two career races under the Twin Spires. Don’t discount.

10 – Bravazo (Lukas, Saez, 30-1). Lukas-trained warrior hasn’t been seen since his fourth place finish in the Pegasus in January. Has earned over $2 million with only three career wins in 17 races, his most impressive effort a second place finish to Triple Crown winner Justify in last year’s Preakness. Passing off the long layoff.

11 – Seeking the Soul (Stewart, Hernandez, 12-1). Only win of the year was in the Grade 1 Foster over the Churchill strip in June. Son of Perfect Soul hasn’t hit the board since, but he’s raced against much tougher foes then he’ll face on Friday. Finished third in last year’s edition as the favorite. His recency indicates best to pass, but hard not to use in the exotics based on his past efforts in Louisville.

12 – Pioneer Spirit (Diodora, Cohen, 12-1). Comes out of a career best at Churchill in an optional claimer. Likely to regress while stepping up in class and workouts not showing anything that indicates that he’s sitting on a big one. Seems to be a tough ask.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Mr. Buff; 2 – Tom’s d’Etat; 3 – Owendale; 4 – Mr. Freeze 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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