The major players for Friday’s 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented
by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) are now in place at Churchill Downs following the early afternoon arrival of morning line favorite Game On Dude early Wednesday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Game On Dude, who
will attempt to solidify his credentials for consideration for the
Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and champion older male, stepped
off a van and onto the grounds of Churchill Downs
at approximately 1:45 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The Bob Baffert-trained star flew from California to Lexington on a flight that arrived at 11:30 a.m., and then traveled to Louisville by van.
Skies were sunny
when Game On Dude’s van arrived, but he was greeted by a temperature
reading of 30 degrees and a stiff breeze that dropped the wind chill
factor to near zero as he walked to his stall in
Baffert assistant Jim Barnes accompanied Game On Dude on his cross-country journey.
“He traveled very
well,” Barnes said. “It was a pretty simple trip, other than having to
ship from Lexington to here. But we’re good. It’s cold, but he’s happy
Game On Dude will
attempt to increase his total of Grade I stakes victories to eight when
he faces eight rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap. The race for
3-year-olds and up, like the Kentucky Derby
Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), has been run annually without interruption since Churchill Downs opened in 1875 as the Louisville Jockey Club.
The arrival of Game On Dude, the 8-5 Clark favorite in handicapper Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds, completes the cast of nine entered in the Clark. His most prominent foe is Willis D. Horton’s
Travers (GI) winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) runner-up Will Take Charge, the 9-5 second choice in the Clark.
Others in the field (with morning line odds) include Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket (9-2), runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) and dead-heat winner of
the 2012 Travers; Bourbon Lane Stable’s Bourbon Courage (8-1), third to classic winner Shackleford in the 2012 Clark; Zayat Stable’s multiple graded stakes winner Prayer for Relief (12-1), winner of the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker
(GIII); Joseph LaPenta’s New York invader Easter Gift
(12-1), winner of the $250,000-added Mountainview at Penn National and
the 2012 running of the $350,000 Smarty Jones (GIII) at Parx Racing; Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake (20-1),
who will attempt to give trainer Dale Romans his second consecutive Clark triumph; Rigney Racing’s Our Double Play (20-1), who defeated Bourbon Courage in a recent Churchill Downs allowance race and won the Prairie Meadows Mile; and John
D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock Services’ Jaguar Paw (20-1), winner of the Three Coins Up at Belmont Park.
On Dude enters the Clark off a disappointing ninth-place finish as the
in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The loss snapped a
six-race winning streak that included five wins in 2013, three of which
were Grade I victories in the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold
Cup and the Pacific Classic.
The 6-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again is owned by a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, the Lanni Family Trust, Diamond Pride Stable of Major League Baseball great Joe
Torre and Mercedes Stable. He brings a career record of 28-15-5-1 and earnings of $5,602,148 into Friday’s race.