Will Take Charge out-duels Game on Dude in one of the best editions of the Clark Handicap in recent memory.
By J.J. Hysell
Almost Famous, a disappointing fourth in the Street Sense Stakes after his impressive debut win at Churchill Downs, will return off of a short rest sporting an equipment change.
The son of Unbridled’s Song, who set the early pace but faded in that mile test on Oct. 27, will add blinkers for the allowance optional claiming race at 1 1/16-miles on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Trainer Pat Byrne said Almost Famous emerged from the Street Sense fine, but a change was in order because of his immaturity.
“He just didn’t focus,” Byrne said in the Churchill Downs press notes. “He just kind of goofed around there. I gave him a day off, took him back to the track and galloped him with blinkers on and I think the blinks are the way to go.”
Almost Famous, owned by Sandford Racing, worked sharply his first time wearing blinkers, going three furlongs in :35.40 on the Churchill surface on Nov. 2.
The dark bay colt turned heads with his sharp debut win with jockey Calvin Borel on Sept. 13. He won the six-furlong test easily in front-running fashion in 1:10.90.
Corey Lanerie will be aboard Saturday as Borel is sidelined with an injury.
A strong field of 10, including a coupled entry from trainer Bill Mott, is slated to contest race 7. The Al Stall-trained Purple Sky is also one to watch after his late-closing win over the Churchill track in his second start. The son of Pulpit was third to the well-regarded Honor Code on a sloppy track in his debut.
Dobra Historia, one of Mott’s entries, improved with the switch to Keeneland synthetic and the stretch out to 1 1/16-miles. The son of Unbridled’s Song switches from Rosie Napravnik to Julien Leparoux, who recently returned to Kentucky after being based in California.
Napravnik stays with Plug Catcher, a son of Roman Ruler who appreciated the sloppy Churchill surface in his debut on Sept. 20. The Bret Calhoun trainee has twice worked at six furlongs in preparation for the increased distance.
Arctic Slope, a closing third over the soaked Keeneland synthetic in the Breeders’ Futurity, was boosted by the win Thursday of Chas’s Legacy at Churchill Downs. This Kenny McPeek trainee, a son of Van Nistelrooy, beat him in his maiden-breaking win over this surface and at this distance on Sept. 14.
Myositis Dan’s win at Keeneland is more impressive than it appears on paper. The son of Istan gained a stalking position from a wide 10-post and won handily. If weather cooperates, the Tom Proctor trainee will see his first fast dirt track Saturday.
Matuszak, the other Mott entry, won his debut from far off the pace on this surface in an off-turf event at this distance. He didn’t fare as well at Keeneland, but the son of Bernardini didn’t appear to take to the synthetic surface. Jockey Leandro Goncalves will be aboard for the first time.
By J.J. Hysell
With Eclipse Awards on the line, the Clark Handicap is shaping up to be a showdown that could feature some Breeders’ Cup Classic competitors.
D. Wayne Lukas said Wednesday that Will Take Charge, who lost by a nose to Mucho Macho Man in Saturday’s Classic, is “possible” for the Grade 1, $500,000-added Clark on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs. The Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby winner is a leading candidate for top 3-year-old male honors.
“We may run him one more time, since it’s a Grade I,” Lukas said in the Churchill press notes. “I think we’re in good shape anyhow. Most people I’ve talked to in the press think he’s champion (3-year-old male). If he wins the Clark, it would probably put the icing on the cake.”
Also listed as possible for the Clark is Game on Dude, according to Steve Andersen of the Daily Racing Form.
Game on Dude, on the pace early in the Classic as the race favorite, faded to ninth. Prior to the Classic, he won six straight races in California and was considered a candidate for Horse of the Year. A solid showing in the Clark could put him in position for the older male honor.
Others being considered for the Clark include Neck ‘n Neck, third in the Michael G. Schaefer Stakes off a long layoff because of injury, and Bourbon Courage, second in an allowance at Churchill on Oct. 31.
By J.J. Hysell
With his breathtaking win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in just his second race off a 18-month layoff, Secret Circle has elevated himself to star status.
Even his trainer, Bob Baffert, was starry-eyed after the 4-year-old son of Eddington blasted past his foes to win the six-furlong, $1,500,000 Grade 1 race in 1:08.73.
“Only a certain horse like a Midnight Lute or a Secret Circle can pull off something like this,” Baffert said after the race.
He would know. Baffert trained the speedy two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner who now stands at stud at Hill ‘n Dale.
Secret Circle, winner of the now-defunct Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint in 2012, has already surpassed Midnight Lute in career victories with seven. The Kentucky-bred won the Grade 3 Southwest and the Grade 2 Rebel and was runner-up to Bodemeister in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby during his 3-year-old season.
Even more interesting to note is how Baffert described the bay colt to radio and TV host Billy Bush, who anchored much of the Breeders’ Cup coverage for NBC.
“Billy Bush, he was doing a segment on him the other day from Access Television, or whatever it is,” Baffert said. “I was showing him all the horses, Game on Dude, Paynter, and we were walking around the barn. I said ‘Bud, if you were back in the West in the old days and you wanted to rob a bank, this is the horse you want to get on right here.'”