Churchill Downs' Clark 2019: Odds and analysis for Friday's race

November 24, 2019 02:44pm

As with many stakes races these days for older horses, the Grade 1, $600,000 Clark at Churchill Downs on Friday is lacking a susperstar. On the one hand, the competitive field gives bettors a higher chance to find value. But it could make analyzing difficult.

Bravazo makes his return off a long layoff and brings a big caution sign with a 10-race losing streak. A horse like Bravazo is always a great back wheel candidate, though, which is the direction I’ll gear my wagers.

The Clark -- note, this is no longer being run as a handicap -- is carded as Race 11 with post time set for 5:56 p.m. ET.

1. Draft Pick, 15-1 (Candy Ride – Peter Eurton/Joe Talamo – 13: 3-3-3): The runner-up in the Pacific Classic disappointed in the Awesome Again Stakes, finishing fifth, 14 1/4 lengths behind Mongolian Groom. He also got outworked by his stablemate Ashleyluvssugar on Nov. 18. But the second-place finish behind Higher Power, who went on to be third in the Breeders’ Cup Cassic, is decent enough to consider him on tickets. Use underneath.

2. Tom‘s d’Etat, 6-1 (Smart Strike – Albert Stall Jr./Joel Rosario – 15: 8-2-1): Tom’s d’Etat owns eight victories in of 15 starts, which is an impressive win rate. In fairness, most of his wins came at lower levels. But he recently broke through in the Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, his first Grade 2 victory. Plus, he did finish a decent fourth in the Woodward at Saratoga. Most of his speed figures are high enough to take this mild Grade 1. Win contender.

3. Mocito Rojo, 20-1 (Mutadda – Shane Wilson/Filemon Rodriguez – 26: 17-3-1): While he did win the Lukas Classic at Churchill Down, it did not seem like a strong race, even for a Grade 3 event. It is hard to endorse him off his seventh-place finish in the Fayette, especially with Tom’s d’Etat and Mr Freeze in this race again, too. Toss.

4. Major Cabbie, 20-1 (Into Mischief – Peter Miller/Paco Lopez – 14: 4-0-3): His recent wins are notable, but they came with an uncontested lead each time. When speed horses get that sort of trip, it’s perfect, especially on dirt. In this spot, he should feel more pressure with some experienced graded stakes horses pressuring him. Toss.

5. Snapper Sinclair, 15-1 (City Zip – Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana – 19: 5-3-2): His recent form is consistent. He overcame a speed bias and a rough trip to win the Tourist Mile Stakes at Kentucky Downs, then ran fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, behind a loose Spun to Run on the lead. But the stretch out to nine furlongs here is a big concern for me. Toss.

6. Fact Finding, 20-1 (The Factor – Charles LoPresti/Corey Lanerie – 15: 6-3-0): He is an improved horse with two wins in his past two starts, including a one-length win over a strong optional claiming field at Keeneland. He did run a close second in a nine-furlong turf race back in June too, eliminating doubts about the stretch out. His overall class still feels a touch below the top ones, but his sharp form is not something to underestimate. Use underneath.

7. Mr. Buff, 8-1 (Friend or Foe – John Kimmel/Junior Alvarado – 32: 11-6-4): Except for his seventh-place finish in the Woodward, his New York form is consistent. He recently won the Empire Classic Handicap at nine furlongs, as well as the Evan Shipman Stakes and Saginaw Stakes in his past four starts. His figures are good enough. He probably needs a softer pace to succeed at this level, and it is unclear whether he will get one with Major Cabbie entered. Win contender.

8. Owendale, 6-1 (Into Mischief – Brad Cox/Florent Geroux – 13: 5-1-2): Cross out the Breeders’ Cup Classic flop. More than one late closer could not make a dent on Santa Anita’s tweaked dirt surface, and this one possibly needed more seasoning. Otherwise, he has been consistent since capturing the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Besides his wins in the Ohio Derby and Oklahoma Derby, he also ran third in the Preakness Stakes and a troubled fifth in the Travers. This 3-year-old could move forward. Win contender.

9. Mr Freeze, 12-1 (To Honor and Serve – Dale Romans/Robbie Albarado – 9: 4-3-0): His consistency since returning is commendable with two runner-up finishes and a win in the local Ack Ack Stakes. Given Tom’s d’Etat beat him by 4 ¼ lengths in the Fayette, though, and shows up again here, it is difficult to endorse him on top. But with his best effort, Mr Freeze might hang around for third or fourth with his newfound consistency. Use underneath.

10. Bravazo, 7/2 (Awesome Again – D. Wayne Lukas/Luis Saez– 17: 3-4-3): The runner-up in last year’s Clark makes his return after an 11-month absence. His will to win is in question. As previously stated, Bravazo is riding a long losing streak off the layoff, and the low-percentage D. Wayne Lukas trains him. Expect him to hang slightly late while a more win-hungry contender prevails. Use underneath.

11. Seeking the Soul, 9/2 (Perfect Soul – Dallas Stewart/Brian Hernandez Jr. – 30: 7-6-7): A sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is not a terrible effort. But Seeking the Soul also ran a disappointing fourth by 8 ½ lengths in the Awesome Again Stakes and dismal seventh in the Pacific Classic as the favorite. With that said, he remains a contender based on his Stephen Foster Stakes win over the summer and does his best running at Churchill. Win contender.

12. Pioneer Spirit, 15-1 (Malibu Moon – Robert Diodoro/David Cohen – 27: 10-4-7): He finished ninth in a weak Lukas Classic and then barely won a local optional claimer. The post position is not great, either. Not every horse deserves a spot in exotic tickets. Toss.

Conclusion: You probably noticed a theme above, with a number of win contenders and no lone top choice here.

I could see any of Seeking the Soul, Owendale, Tom’s d’Etat and possibly Mr. Buff, if he transfers his New York form to Churchill Downs, in the winner’s circle Friday.

Bravazo could prevail, too, but what are the chances a horse that couldn’t win before sidelined with a bone chip could return on top? Expecting he may need a race, I’ll use the talented colt underneath.

If bettors go in the back wheel
direction, they could also make a small win bet on Bravazo as a “saver.”


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