LOUISVILLE, KY – Charles E. Fipke’s homebred Seeking the Soul gamely took on all comers to win Friday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Clark Handicap on his home track of Churchill Downs.
Off well from post 2 under John Velazquez, Seeking the Soul sat off the pace while Diversify took a 2-length lead through fractions of :23.34, :47.35, and 1:11.44. Shifted into the three path at the top of the stretch, Seeking the Soul rallied down the middle of the track, briefly skirting out in front of a closing Hoppertunity before outlasting Good Samaritan to the line by 1/2 a length. The Dallas Stewart trainee’s win, in a final time of 1:48.88 for the 1 1/8-mile main track event, came three weeks after the same trio of connections took home the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Forever Unbridled.
“It’s a great honor to win a race like this for Mr. Fipke and Dallas,” Velazquez said after winning the Clark for a third time. “It’s been a really good month.”
Hoppertunity’s jockey Florent Geroux filed a rider’s objection against Seeking the Soul, alleging interference in the stretch run, but his claim was ultimately dismissed.
“I had to steady a little bit at about 50 yards (from the finish), so I didn’t really know if (Seeking the Soul) really came out,” Geroux said.
The favored Diversify faltered late down the stretch, crossing in fourth ahead of The Player, with Destin, Goats Town, Mo Tom, and Honorable Duty completing the order of finish. Honorable Duty was pulled up in the stretch but walked off and appeared okay to trainer Brendan Walsh.
“Nothing terrible,” Walsh said. “Hopefully, we’ll get him back to his best before long.”
For Seeking the Soul, the victory was the first graded stakes win of his career. The 4-year-old son of Perfect Soul has won $424,314 of his $551,162 career earnings in 2017, carrying an 8-3-0-3 record during that time.
“It’s been a great month,” Stewart said. “I’m so happy to win another Grade 1 for Mr. Fipke. He’s allowed me to space out (Seeking the Soul’s) races, and I think that’s helped in his development. It was a great effort and a great accomplishment to win the Clark.”
Seeking the Soul returned $17.80 to win, $8.60 to place, and $5 to show. Good Samaritan brought back $7 to place and $4.40 to show, while Hoppertunity paid $4.40 to show.