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2022 Clark Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Rich Strike Should Win With Return To Churchill Downs
Rich Strike (Coady Photography)

2022 Clark Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Rich Strike Should Win With Return To Churchill Downs

Aaron previews the 2022 Clark Stakes (G1) from Churchill Downs, then gives his top picks & long shots. With a return to his favorite track, will the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1) upset winner Rich Strike win his first race since the First Saturday in May? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

RED-TR Racing’s Kentucky Derby (Grade I) hero Rich Strike will return to Churchill Downs and face a compact field of seven entered in Friday’s 148th running of the $750,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare (GI).

The 1 1/8-mile Clark, which has been run every year since 1875 at Churchill Downs, will go as Race 11 of 12 with a post time of 5:56 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post for the “Black Friday” card is 1 p.m. and also will feature the 31st running of the $300,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) in Race 10. The 1 1/16-mile turf event will feature Chris Walsh’s Grade II-winning 3-year-old filly California Angel.

Rich Strike, the 80-1 upset winner of $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI), has run four times since his historic victory on the first Saturday in May. The 3-year-old son of Keen Ice tested straight 3-year-olds two times following the Derby, a sixth-place effort in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) and a fourth-place finish in the $1.25 million Travers (GI).

In his first try against older horses, Rich Strike finished a controversial second to Hot Rod Charlie in the $500,000 Lukas Classic (GII).

Rich Strike returned in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) where he finished a troubled fourth after being forced extremely wide on the backstretch around Epicenter whose jockey Joel Rosario was pulling him up.

“After the Breeders’ Cup we weren’t originally thinking the Clark but he came out of the race so good,” trainer Eric Reed said. “In the Classic he was forced wide after Epicenter pulled up and he still managed fourth. He ran a good race and he’s trained well (at the Mercury Training Center) since then. We’re excited to get him back to his favorite track here at Churchill.”

Although the Clark is the next target on Reed’s radar for Rich Strike, he’s already thinking ahead to 2023. The veteran conditioner stated Rich Strike could run in the March 25 Dubai World Cup (GI).

Leon will have the return mount on Rich Strike for the Clark and the duo will break from post No. 4.

Among Rich Strike’s competition in the Clark are the top three finishers in the $350,000 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland: Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power, Juddmonte’s Fulsome and Willis Horton Racing’s Last Samurai.

In the Oct. 29 Fayette, West Will Power scored a 6 ¾-length front-running victory over his Brad Cox stablemate Fulsome, who finished three-quarters of a length in front of the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Last Samurai.

West Will Power, a homebred son of Bernardini, began his delayed 5-year-old campaign in August at Ellis Park as the 5-2 second choice in the $70,000 R.A. Cowboy Jones Stakes. In the one-mile event, West Will Power finished a head behind fellow Clark runner Injunction. In his next start on Sept. 28, West Will Power won a 1 1/8-mile allowance event at Churchill Downs prior to his dominate victory in the Fayette. Jockey Luis Saez will ride West Will Power from post 7.

Another top entrant in the Clark is Godolphin’s three-time winner Proxy. Trained by Mike Stidham, Proxy was on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2021 where he finished second in the $200,000 Lecomte (GIII) and $400,000 Risen Star (GII). The son of Tapit went to the sidelines following his fourth-place effort in the $200,000 Lexington (GIII). In his 4-year-old campaign, Proxy has yet to finish outside the top three with runner-up efforts in the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (GII) and $200,000 Blame and third-place finishes in the $300,000 Ben Ali (GIII) and $750,000 Stephen Foster (GII). Jockey Joel Rosario will ride Proxy from the rail.

The Clark field is rounded out by J & J Stables and Nicholas Vaccarezza’s $300,000 Ack Ack (GIII) runner-up Injunction and BBN Racing’s recent allowance winner, 3-year-old gelding Trademark.

Here is the complete field for the Clark from the rail out (with jockey and trainer):

  1. Proxy (Rosario, Stidham)
  2. Trademark (Martin Garcia, Vicki Oliver)
  3. Injunction (Rafael Bejarano, Carlo Vaccarezza)
  4. Rich Strike (Leon, Reed)
  5. Fulsome (Florent Geroux, Cox)
  6. Last Samurai (Tyler Gaffalione, Lukas)
  7. West Will Power (Saez, Cox)

The early National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for a high of 47 degrees Friday with a 30 percent chance of showers.