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The Racing Dudes react to Proxy winning the 2022 Clark Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs for his 1st career graded stakes score. The 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Rich Strike finished last – what happened?! Watch the replay for the Racing Dudes’ INSTANT reactions, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
In a thrilling run down the Churchill Downs stretch, Godolphin’s 4-year-old homebred colt Proxy was able to run down pacesetter West Will Power inside the final sixteenth of mile and win Friday’s 148th running of the $750,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) by three-quarters of a length to collect his elusive first graded stakes win. Meanwhile, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who finished fourth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) just 20 days ago, finished last of six.
Proxy clocked 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.89 under jockey Joel Rosario, who rode the winner for trainer Mike Stidham.
For Godolphin, it was their second straight Clark win with a homebred as they took last year’s renewal with Maxfield.
The lofty first prize of $458,970 lifted Proxy’s earnings to $971,220 from a record of 4-5-2 in 13 starts.
A seemingly hard-luck colt, Proxy is nearly a millionaire after collecting the first stakes win of his career. At age 3, he finished second in a pair of Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races at Fair Grounds, the Lecomte (GIII) behind Midnight Bourbon and Risen Star (GII) behind Mandaloun. He’d conclude his 2021 season with fourth place finishes in the Louisiana Derby (GII) and Lexington (GIII). Proxy’s 4-year-old campaign this season included runner-up efforts in the New Orleans Classic (GII) behind Olympiad and Blame (Listed) behind Dynamic One, as well as a pair of thirds in the Ben Ali (GIII) and Stephen Foster (GII).
Rested since the July 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, Proxy was fresh off the 146-day layoff and sat just back of pacesetter and 8-5 favorite West Will Power, the winner of the Fayette (GII) at Keeneland in his last start who dictated the pace through comfortable fractions of :23.94, :48.51 and 1:12.76. The two drew nearly even leaving the final turn with West Will Power in front by a half-length of Proxy, who chased wide from the five path. They matched strides down the lane, but a surging Proxy grabbed command inside the final 50 yards for the triumph.
“This was his first start in a few months so he was a little sharper leaving the gate,” Rosario said. “He was a little bit further back in his last start here in the Stephen Foster than I expected him to be. I knew (West Will Power) was really the only horse that had early speed in the race so I didn’t want to let him get away easily. He was very professional today throughout. (West Will Power) didn’t want to give in. He was very tough on the lead and I had to work pretty hard to get by him.”
Proxy, the 2-1 second betting choice, rewarded his backers with mutuels of $7.08, $3.44 and $2.84. West Will Power, with Luis Saez up, returned $3.42 and $3.28. Fulsome, under Florent Geroux, was another 2 ½ lengths back in third and paid $4 to show.
“I was a little shocked he showed as much speed as he did,” Stidham said. “That could have been because of how fresh he was coming off the layoff. We had this race as a target when we gave him a break following the Stephen Foster. It’s very special for him to get his first graded stakes win as a Grade I. I think Joel (Rosario) knew from riding (West Will Power) last time in the Fayette that he would show early speed again. When he broke as sharp as he did, he didn’t take position away from him. I was confident he’d have enough left in the stretch by his pedigree. He’s bred to go a mile-and-a-quarter. There are a lot of options now going forward. I’d love to get back to the Dubai World Cup (GI) but going into 2023 there’s a lot still on the table after a win like today.”
Last Samurai finished fourth and was followed by Injunction and Rich Strike. Trademark was scratched.
“He was in a good position at the rail but turning for home he didn’t have anything left at all,” said Rich Strike’s trainer Eric Reed. “We knew it was a big risk running him back in three weeks. Sometimes you’re the hero and sometimes you’re the goat.”
Proxy is a son of Tapit out of the multiple Grade I-winning Include mare Panty Raid who was bred in Kentucky by his owners.
The Clark, named for Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark, was run for the first time in 1875 during the first racing meet at Churchill Downs, which was then known as the Louisville Jockey Club. Like the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), the Clark has been renewed annually without interruption since its first running.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Saturday with a 12-race program that begins at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern). The 96th running of the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) – a “Prep Season” race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby – and the 79th running of the $400,000 Golden Rod (GII) for fillies are the headliners on the penultimate day of Churchill Downs’ 19-date Fall Meet. Billed as “Stars of Tomorrow II,” each of the 12 races is exclusively for 2-year-olds that may have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next spring’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
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