LOUISVILLE, KY – Steve Landers Racing’s Leofric kept his hot streak alive on Friday while winning the biggest event of his career in the Grade 1, $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from post 5 under Florent Geroux at 3-1 odds, Leofric sat comfortably in mid-pack while Prime Attraction led through opening fractions of :23.56, :47.58, and 1:11.61. Shifting out as he hit the top of the stretch, Leofric began driving hard toward the front, but Bravazo was hot on his heels. The two battled gamely the length of the stretch, but in the end, it was the Brad Cox-trained Leofric who gamely prevailed by a neck in a final time of 1:48.59 for the 9-furlong event over the fast main track.
“We had a great trip in the pocket the entire way around,” said Geroux, who also won the 2016 edition aboard Gun Runner. “That made the difference. This is a really nice horse. He’s had some great preparation by Brad and his team before this race. He fought Bravazo the whole way until the wire. I’m so proud of his effort.”
The 3/2 favorite and defending champion Seeking the Soul could not match the top pair’s powerful strides and had to settle for third by 3/4 of a length over a weakened Prime Attraction. The rest of the field was never a threat and came across in order as Hence, Hawaakom, Storm Advisory, and Sightforsoreeyes.
Leofric’s win was fourth in his last five starts and fifth of the year, bringing his overall record to 14-8-1-3. The 5-year-old son of Candy Ride increased his lifetime bankroll to $951,040 – a fair improvement on the $100,000 that he brought at auction in November 2016 while still a maiden.
“Florent did a great job,” Cox said. “He ran really well after running most of the summer and not missing a beat. He ran hard in the (Grade 2) Fayette and I was a little concerned he may be coming back a bit too quick. He had two really nice breezes over the track and came into today’s race ready to go. Mr. Landers has been very patient with this horse. We’ll maybe look at the Oaklawn Handicap or something like that down the road. We’ll see how he comes out of things. I’m really proud of his effort. He’s really turned the corner over the summer and become a top-quality horse.”
Leofric returned $8.60 to win, $4.40 to place, and $2.40 to show. Bravazo brought back $3.80 to place and $2.40 to show, while Seeking the Soul paid $2.10 to show.