A trio of contenders for Friday’s 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) took advantage of Saturday morning’s dry weather and a fast track to turn in their final works in preparation for the premiere race of Churchill Downs’ 25-day Fall Meet.
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket, Bourbon Lane Stable’s Bourbon Courage and Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake completed their serious training on Saturday for the 1 1/8-mile Clark, a race for 3-year-olds and up which shares its long history with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Golden Ticket, fresh off a runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) for trainer Kenny McPeek, worked five furlongs in company with stablemate Flashy American, Preston Stables LLC’s 4-year-old filly who will be among the favorites for $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII), the Thanksgiving Day feature for fillies and mares ages three and up.
The McPeek-trained duo covered the distance in 1:01 with fractional clockings of :12 and :36.20. The five-furlong moves tied as the second-fastest of 39 works at the distance.
Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for victory with Alpha in the 2012 Travers (GI) and ran second to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned in this year’s $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs, was assigned 120 pounds for the Clark, six fewer than the high-weighted seven-time Grade I winner Game On Dude and three less than the impost for 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up and 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge.
Bourbon Courage breezed four furlongs in :47.80 under jockey Corey Lanerie, who will ride the Kellyn Gorder-trained son of Lion Heart in the Clark.
The work by Bourbon Courage ranked as the second-fastest of 71 at the distance, and the 4-year-old colt’s internal fractions were timed in :12 and :24.40 and he galloped our five furlongs in 1:00.60 and 1:14.40.
“The horse is doing well,” Gorder said. “I know we’ll play the role of underdog, but that’s okay. We’re happy with where our horse is and I’m anxious to see him run again.”
Bourbon Courage finished third to Preakness (GI) and Metropolitan Handicap (GI) winner Shackleford and runner-up Take Charge Indy, winner of the 2012 Florida Derby (GI), in last year’s Clark. He will attempt to break a six-race losing streak in the Clark that dates to a victory in last year’s Super Derby and comes into the race off a runner-up finish in Churchill Downs allowance race on Oct. 31 – his first race in six months.
“He definitely needed that race last time and came out of it well,” Gorder said. “He’s put in some nice breezes since then, he was able today to get a good racetrack and he’s ready to roll.”
Bourbon Courage will bring a record of 12-3-4-3 and earnings of $841,844 into the Clark. His other races this year include a runner-up finish in the Donn Handicap (GI) and a third-place run in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII), both won by Graydar, and a third-place finish to Take Charge Indy in Churchill Downs’ Alysheba (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Finnegans Wake worked a sharp five furlongs in :59.80 under former jockey Tammy Fox, which was the fastest move of 39 works at the distance on Saturday.
Trainer Dale Romans was very happy with the quick move by Finnegans Wake, a 4-year-old son of Powerscourt (GB) that he described as “possibly definite” for Friday’s Clark.
“He’s not the best work horse in the world, so when he’s sharp like that he usually runs good,” Romans said.
Finnegans Wake comes into the race off a fourth-place finish behind Nikki’s Sandcastle over synthetic Polytrack in Keeneland’s Hagyard Fayette Stakes (GII) on Oct. 26. He has yet to win in six 2013 races, most of which have come against top-notch competition on the grass, include fourth places finishes behind turf stars Point of Entry in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan (GI), Boisterous in the Man O’ War (GI) and Real Solution in the Arlington Million (GI) and a runner-up finish to Hyper in Belmont Park’s Bowling Green Handicap (GII).
Romans scored his first win in the Clark last year with Shackleford, who was the bettors’ second choice in what would be the final race of the classic winner’s career. Even with today’s impressive work on dirt, Finnegans Wake will be an outsider in Friday’s Clark.
“We’re coming in with difference circumstances than last year, but the pressure won’t be quite as tough,” Romans said. “He likes this racetrack and he’s doing good. I know there are two monsters in there, but we’ll see what happens.”
The Clark Handicap’s known probable starters include (with trainers, weights): Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder, 120), Easter Gift (Chad Brown, 116), Finnegans Wake (Romans, 116), Game On Dude (Bob Baffert, 126), Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek, 120), Prayer for Relief (Steve Asmussen, 118) and Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, 123). Possible: Jaguar Paw (Stephen Lyster, 115).