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Clark Preview: Overloaded Field Takes Aim at Grade 1 Score
Code of Honor winning the Westchester (Credit: NYRA / Joe Labozzetta)

Clark Preview: Overloaded Field Takes Aim at Grade 1 Score

One of the oldest and most historic races in the country is set for another renewal this Friday at Churchill Downs. An overloaded field in the $500,000 Clark Stakes (G1) highlights a big weekend of racing beneath the Twin Spires, which also includes the Stars of Tomorrow II card on Saturday. Inaugurated in 1875, the Clark will will headline a terrific Friday card, which features 11 races. The main event will go off as race 10 with a local post time of 5:27 PM ET. 

Headlining this year’s event is By My Standards, who was a winner the last time he raced at Churchill Downs, easily taking home the Alysheba Stakes (G2). That victory led to a start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last time out, where he was eighth. Gabriel Saez will have the mount once again, with the colt breaking from post 12. 

The Shug McGaughey-trained Code of Honor will ship in from New York to Churchill Downs for the first time since running second in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1). Since then, the colt has gone on to win major races such as the Travers Stakes (G1), but he comes into this spot on a 3-race losing streak. He’ll break from post 3 in this spot as he tries to change his luck with regular rider John Velazquez aboard. 

You can’t forget about trainer Brad Cox on any big racing day, and he brings Ownendale for this contest. This colt usually runs well over this surface; he finished a fast-closing fifth last time out at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Florent Geroux will be aboard for the race, breaking from post 9. 

The full field from the rail out: Crafty Daddy, Title Ready, Code of Honor, Multiplier, Aurelius Maximus, Plus Que Parfait, Mr Freeze, Bodexpress, Owendale, Bourbon Calling, Coastal Defense, By My Standards, Phantom Currency, Silver Prospector, and In Love (Also Eligible). 

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Top Choice 

#3 Code of Honor – If this race was earlier in the year, he would be a heavy favorite. He’ll still be a shorter price, but probably not the favorite, after losing 3 straight. Two of those races were at a mile, though, including the very tough Met Mile (G1) at Belmont, where he lost by only 1 1/2 lengths. He’s better around two turns, which is the setup he’ll get here, so this is where we could see him thrive. He should be ready to put up a much better effort in this spot. 

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers 

#12 By My Standards – There is no doubt this horse is a deserving favorite. He won the Alysheba Stakes (G2) over this surface 2 starts back, but he did no running as the wise guy horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), finishing a well-beaten eighth. That race gives you a little cause for concern, and this post position is not ideal for his running style. He’s one you have to play in everything, but I’m taking a small shot against in the win bet category. 

#9 Owendale – It’s hard to leave off any Brad Cox runner at this point, especially one like Owendale, who should have a favorable pace setup in this spot. He also seems to like running at Churchill Downs, where the long stretch plays in his favor. Last time out, he closed decently in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland to finish fifth. With more ground to work with here, he could be a threat down the stretch.  

Exotic Plays 

#7 Mr Freeze – Earlier in the year, this horse was in top form, which would have given him a solid chance to win in this spot. He’s fallen off a bit now, though he did win the Fayette Stakes (G2) 2 races back. Last time out, he was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), but this race seems a bit easier than that. He has a chance to stay around in the late stages of the race with the right trip. 

#4 Multiplier – The old veteran seems to always be around at the end, which could be the case again here. His odds of winning aren’t good, but if the pace falls apart up front, he will have a chance to pick up some of the pieces late. He also has the services of Tyler Gaffalione, who is the hottest jockey in the country right now. 

#10 Bourbon Calling – He has very little shot of winning; however, hitting the board at a big price seems like it could happen. Look for him to take back early, making one big run at the end, hoping the pace falls apart late. With plenty of early speed signed on, it looks like that is something that could definitely happen. 

Party Crashers 

#5 Aurelius Maximus – Since moving to the barn of Steve Asmussen, this horse has won 2 of 3 starts and lost the Fayette Stakes (G2) last time out by a neck. He needs to improve from a speed figure standpoint to have a chance, but there are reasons to believe he will. It’s also important to note that Asmussen’s top rider Ricardo Santana Jr. chose this horse over Silver Prospector (see below). 

#8 Bodexpress – Surely this horse will run a nice race outside of Gulfstream Park West once, right? He is a monster at that track, but when running elsewhere, he leaves a lot to be desired. If he gets an early lead, he could take this field a long way, but other fast early runners are entered. He’s worth a look if his odds float up, but not at a shorter price. 

Throw Outs

#2 Title Ready – He has the class to compete in a race like this and exits the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last time out, where he was a non-factor. This field should be more to his liking. He’s a fringe underneath player against this group. 

#14 Silver Prospector – At one point in the season, he looked like a Kentucky Derby contender, but injuries forced him out of contention. He came back with a sharp win last time out over this track against allowance company, signaling that he could be ready to blossom. This seems to be a little bit over his head, though, no matter how well he runs. 

#11 Coastal Defense – He cover graded stakes company a try last time out, finishing a decent fourth in the Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland last time out. That should give his connections a little confidence coming into this spot, despite the fact that this seems to be a much tougher field. 

#13 Phantom Currency – This gelding comes in the event off a win last time out, which come over this surface in an optional claiming race originally scheduled for the turf. He’s done of his best running on the lawn, but his win last time out was good enough to take a swing in this tough spot. 

#1 Crafty Daddy – This colt has had an up-and-down season so far, but his sharp optional claiming score over this surface last time out earned him a shot in this spot. He’ll need to show improvement to make an impact, though. 

#6 Plus Que Parfait – It’s hard to envision him winning a race of this caliber after running poorly against lesser competition this season. He needs a big class drop at this point. 

#15 In Love – If any horse scratches, In Love will make the field for his first start on the dirt in North America after winning an allowance on the turf at Keeneland last time out. 

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