Clark 2023: Odds, analysis for Friday stakes at Churchill Downs

Clark 2023: Odds, analysis for Friday stakes at Churchill Downs
Photo: Alex Evers / Eclipse Sportswire

Friday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs drew a field of 10 who will race 1 1/8 miles. This Thanksgiving weekend feature includes a pair of 3-year-olds and four horses who are Grade 3 winners.

Here is a full-field analysis with morning-line odds from the Horse Racing Nation staff. It is set as race 11 of 12 with post time scheduled for 5:48 p.m. EST.

1. Straight Arrow, 8-1. Arrogate – Mike Dini / Florent Geroux – 7: 4-1-0 - $295,000. Straight Arrow is a New York-bred who became a stakes winner last month when he won the Empire Classic on a muddy and sealed track at Aqueduct by almost three lengths. The 4-year-old won a state-bred allowance in his prior start by nine lengths to earn a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest for any horse in the field. He broke his maiden against open company at Monmouth Park in July. Live long shot.

2. First Mission, 5-2. Street Sense – Brad Cox / Luis Saez – 4: 3-1-0 - $348,110. First Mission is a lightly raced 3-year-old who won the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland on the Kentucky Derby trail but then was away from the races for six months. The Godolphin homebred broke his maiden at Fair Grounds in March by almost seven lengths. First Mission prepped for the Clark in an allowance last month by a neck after overcoming traffic with a furlong to go. Top choice.

3. Il Miracolo, 6-1. Shackleford – Antonio Sano / Tyler Gaffalione – 15: 3-5-1 - $460,375. Il Miracolo is the other 3-year-old, but he is one of the most experienced horses in the field with 15 starts. He became a Grade 3 winner at Parx in August when he won the Smarty Jones on the way to a third in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Last time out, Il Miracolo took on older horses for the first time in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland, where he closed from a stalking position to miss the win by a head. Use underneath.

4. Gasoline, 9-2. Curlin – Todd Pletcher / Flavien Prat – 11: 4-1-3 - $318,930. Gasoline has a pair of allowance wins around two turns at Churchill in his last two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher in which he used stalking trips. His most recent victory was a day shy of three weeks ago,, when he drew clear by more than five lengths and earned the highest speed figure of his career. The Clark will be Gasoline’s first start in a stakes race. Toss.

5. Trademark, 10-1. Upstart – Vickie Oliver / Fernando De La Cruz – 21: 5-3-1 - $698,265. Trademark is a stakes winner on dirt and turf, most recently in the Schaefer Memorial at Horseshoe Indianapolis in July. Since then the 4-year-old was second in both the Iselin (G3) at Monmouth Park and the Lukas Classic (G2) after he had the lead in the stretch. Last month he did not have his usual closing move and finished seventh in the Fayette. Toss.

6. Film Star, 10-1. Flatter – Linda Rice / Jose Lezcano – 16: 4-6-1 - $410,151. Film Star has been a consistent performer throughout his career with top three finishes in 11 of 16 starts. He won a couple of allowances in New York before running second in the Woodward (G2) when he had the lead in the stretch. Last month he was fourth in the Forty Niner (G2) at Aqueduct. Toss.

7. Giant Game, 12-1. Giant’s Causeway – Dale Romans / Martin Garcia – 13: 3-3-2 - $617,800. Giant Game became a Grade 3 winner this year in the Cornhusker (G3) at Prairie Meadows with a front-end effort in July. He finished second behind Gasoline in that allowance race at Churchill. As a 2-year-old in 2021, he was a debut winner and then went on to get second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Giant Game is projected to be on the lead in this field. Win contender.

8. Happy American, 15-1. Runhappy – Neil Pessin / Declan Cannon – 23: 5-1-5 - $602,716. Happy American became a Grade 3 winner when he won the Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds with a late-closing move at odds of 4-1. He also had stakes victories in the Tenacious in 2021 and 2022. Frequently he breaks last, gets far behind and leaves himself too much work to do, which happened in the Lukas Classic and the Fayette. Toss.

9. Stage Raider, 6-1. Pioneerof the Nile – Cherie De Vaux / Brian Hernandez Jr. – 12: 4-4-0 - $381,620. Last seen, Stage Raider could not compete in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile when he did very little running. He became a stakes winner this summer at Ellis Park going a mile and was second in the Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill in September. Stage Raider gets an easier spot and is a threat if he can get back to his recent races in Kentucky. Win contender.

10. Blue Devil, 10-1. Uncle Mo – Jeff Hiles / Javier Castellano. – 13: 3-4-2 - $322,374. Blue Devil made his first appearance in a stakes race in the Lukas Classic and rallied from off the pace to finish third beaten by less than a length. He had been racing on turf and synthetic for most of his career and then had an open-length victory in a Saratoga allowance that came off the grass. Blue Devil then stayed on the main track and ran the two fastest races of his career. Win contender.

Summary: A fast pace is expected in the Clark Stakes, with Giant Game having a chance to get loose on the lead. Recent form is not good from the horses who will make the pace quick, which should give the advantage to late runners Straight Arrow, First Mission, Il Miracolo, Stage Raider and Blue Devil.

First Mission is a lightly raced 3-year-old who won his last three races, including the Lexington on the Kentucky Derby trail. He beat a good field of 10 in that April stakes race, but he did not run on the first Saturday in May and then was away from the races for six months. First Mission is the top choice based on his win on the Derby trail and a strong allowance victory last month where he overcame a troubled trip.

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