Race of the Week 2017

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Zipse At The Track

Clark Handicap Showdown … is this just fantasy?

Game On Dude vs. Wise Dan
Picture if you will a definitive one-race showdown in which the winner would walk away with the Horse of the Year award. Sounds pretty good, does it not? Read on ...
All this Horse of the Year talk is really very interesting, but in the end that’s all it is … talk. The Breeders’ Cup, now just 2 ½ weeks ago, should end all these debates, bringing a level of clarity to the Eclipse Awards of 2012. Sure, and if you believe that, I have some beautiful mountain-view property for sale right here in Illinois. Truth is, while the Breeders’ Cup will certainly decide several of the Eclipse Award questions, it will not solve them all, and the Horse of the Year award is one that could become even more difficult to decide after the World Championships are over. For instance, what if Game On Dude wins the Classic over his favorite track, while Wise Dan scores impressively again, this time in the Breeders’ Cup Mile? With all due respect to I’ll Have Another and Point of Entry, those Breeders’ Cup victories would be enough for me to rate them one-two in the HOTY race, but which one would be more deserving? Game On Dude, as a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner would be the convenient answer, but how can you deny what Wise Dan has been doing this year, and on multiple surfaces, especially when you consider how difficult the Mile  comes up year after year? I believe I have the solution…
How about a one-race showdown on Friday, November 23 at Churchill Downs to decide the Horse of the Year? Think about it, the Grade 1 Clark Handicap would be the perfect decision maker if Game On Dude and Wise Dan were both to win their respective Breeders’ Cup races. The 1 1/8 mile distance over the main track at Churchill Downs would seem to be a very fair trip for the match-up. Both horses are proven at the distance, and Wise Dan would be going only furlong farther than the Mile, while Game On Dude would only need to shorten one furlong from the Classic.
Besides having the opportunity of going head-to-head with their top Horse of the Year competition, this race would also afford each horse the chance to squash any perceived short-comings on their list of seasonal credentials. Game On Dude would get the chance to collect his first win outside of the state of California in 2012, while Wise Dan would become a graded stakes winner on turf, synthetics, and dirt within the calendar year. 
Is there reason to hope that their connections would bring their stars back three weeks after the Breeders’ Cup? Yes. Trainer, Charles Lopresti is a regular at Churchill Downs after all, and Wise Dan is the defending Clark champion, having won the grade 1 affair in style last fall. He also has been a part of the Thanksgiving Weekend at Churchill Downs the past two years, having competed at Churchill three weeks after his BC Sprint run two years ago. Meanwhile, Bob Baffert is no stranger to shipping horses in to Churchill Downs, and has already been a winner of the Clark twice before. In Game On Dude, he also has a horse who has proven over the track. Remember last fall when Game On Dude ran a very game second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after being pressured on the lead for the entire race. It would seem that the Clark offers as fair and as attractive a setting as could be for not only the connections, but the horses as well.
As much dreamer as I have in me, I also possess a strong share of realism. I know that while both horses will be favored at the Breeders’ Cup, they each have a tall task at Santa Anita. I also understand that even if the two big wins come, it would be easy for the connections of both of these stars to rest on their laurels and call it a year for 2012. But wouldn’t this Horse of the Year showdown in the Clark Handicap be fun? I mean which of the two would even be favored? One thing I know for sure … A Breeders’ Cup Classic winning, Game On Dude pitted against a Breeders’ Cup Mile winning, Wise Dan in the 2012 Clark Handicap would be great for the sport.


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Older Comments about Clark Handicap Showdown … is this just fantasy? ...

review the match races: the winner is ALWAYS the speed horse. Why do you think the break for the Ruffian race was so important? they reviewed history too
Canadian Filly won the Demosielle some years back, but it was too late to sway Soverign voters here.
Would not make a difference as the mind set is now closed on HOY candidates.
Any last-ditch tries for an Eclipse runners pointed to this race?
I think the fantasy should just come true at the Breeders Cup, when Wise Dan entes the Classic and trounces GOD at Santa Anita. Pace,Track,Surface,Start,field doesn't seem to matter much when Wise Dan races. He would win 3 or 4 races at the Breeders Cup, so why not have him win the biggest one!
You might see a BC race loser in the Clark, not both Game On Dude and Wise Dan if both win or both lose their respective BC races.
i don't see how this could only be a fantasy, they would have to meet within a year
That would be great for racing. I would not bet Game On Dude outside of California, however.
The days of more than one divisional leader coming together in anything but the Breeder's Cup and long gone. The Jockey Club Gold CUp, Holly Gold CUp, ANita Handicap, Woodward, Arlington Million, Woodbine Mile and International (well these two still do), Whitney, Brooklyn, Met Mile, Suburban, USED to have the funtion that has now been overtaken by a single race, on a single day...In retrospect, I would have rather seen the old system where rivals HAD to meet each other during the season more than once, to decide the pecking order and NOT on a single day late in the season.
horse of the year honors rests in game on dudes hooves. if he wins the classic he clinches H.O.Y.honors no matter what any of the other horses do because the classic is the creme de le creme of horse races.
Or...with Gulfstream opening in the beginning of December, we could create a race to attract the top contenders with the plus of having a little more time off after the Breeders' Cup.
The main fucntion of stakes horses these days is to AVOID one another. We would like to see it but I would not hold my breath.
that would be awesome. I would hope it happens, but it looks as both sets of connections would rather rest after the breeders cup.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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