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Clark Handicap preview

Nice timing for US racing with some Grade 1 action on the pseudo-long weekend where nobody works after Thanksgiving. Regular US racing contributor, the astute Jon da Silva, @creamontop, returns to the blog....


Clark Handicap

9 Furlong Grade 1 Handicap Churchill Downs

You have to love the Septics no sooner do they have a season ending jamboree and then they are throwing two Grade 1s at you four weeks later. One reason this race may have two top classers is that US horses chase Horse of the Year honors (honours my UK chums). Wise Dan by mopping up over a mile on turf and only beaten once off a poor trip against lone speed on a drenched synth track will win anyway mind. Although had Wise Dan been 3rd running a better rating in the Classic (than the Mile he won) he would not - people love the win.

Nonetheless there are categories like top three year old and Will Take Charge's handler D. Wayne Lukas has barely seen a horse he did not want to race again by some accounts. Just to spice it some more it's a handicap.

Game on Dude [aka GOD]
Folds when persistently challenged it seems but has set massive figures draws an inside post here. This sets up for him with less speed and the inside post. It's tempting to knock him but all but won a Breeders' Cup here only for the three-card trick Drosselmeyer who was too slow to tire himself catching him late over a furlong further. Ran a top figure 28 days after prior Breeders Cup defeat, this is 27. If nothing takes him on then can he be beat here? Gives weight albeit WeightForAge essentially to Will Take Charge.

Finnegans Wake
Dire turfer at Grade 1 level highly tried and even with so many races not looked like winning. This is dirt and his chance is similar to a Galileo from Aiden O'Brien on dirt - slim and none with an emphasis on none.

Bourbon Courage
Quality performer not quite top class. 3rd in this last year this looks tougher on paper. One who could mop up if the principles suck. Second run off a break and has been working well at the track so no shipping in from Santa Anita like BC campaigners. The 'if the favs run badly' horse? Also some hope he might still have more in him.

Golden Ticket
Came second supposedly against a pace bias in the Breeders Cup Mile. However a cameraman walking alongside the leaders at the furlong was third. It became a plodfest and Golden Ticket closed past the dead. Kentucky Derby where he was second became a closers convention. Not without a chance and not yet established as short of top class. Can make an argument: track suits and a furlong longer to get to the front than the BC Mile. Challenger.

Prayer for Relief
Good numbers but whether he's quite good enough is the issue. Beaten eight lengths over course and distance when Fort Larned was supposedly unimpressive. no obvious angle for arguing he'll step up.

Easter Gift
Well it is Thanksgiving but we'll forgive him that. Closer fresh off his fifth in a Kelso not run to suit. Improving four year old who needs to step forward but not that much. TimeformUS like him. Could be a value play at 16s.

Will Take Charge
I dismissed him as a winner of slow run races only to watch him get second and be one stride from winning the Breeders' Cup Classic. Now has a peak number to come off. Will he be in the same form? Lukas has given him breaks after every two or three runs. Did run good back to back to back slow run races with ~4 week break in the summer at Saratoga - winning twice. A slight danger of a bounce but one can over play that. Lukas record at Churchill is considered wretched by Timeform. Fairly priced?

Our Double Play [ODP]
A sprinter miler who will flatten out long before the finish? Arguably more important for Game On Dude's hopes than his own. Will he take GOD at the front? Beat Bourbon Courage last time over 7.5F on a sloppy track -> only a 47K allowance. That was incidentally the best Brisnet speed figure on offer here (last 10 runs TimeformUS beg to differ). For those who like to have a reasons for backing Black Swan events? A three year old, changed trainer two runs back. Gets 13 pounds to boot. Might make a wet track play at huge odds. One who if he wins you can cite a lot of reasons why which is weird for an outsider.

Jaguar Paw
In this context should be Jaguar Poor. In deep here. Two attempts at graded company have come up shy. Drawn outside and likely to be hung out there early.

Not a race for large stakes but definitely a nice hangover cure for US fans and the Cigar Mile Saturday equally promises to be good.

Off level weights I'd be all Game On Dude here as he's likely to only have one horse to worry about and is fresher than last year when he won a race after the Breeders' Cup - ducked the Awesome Again this year. He's also handed out beating and weight to many horses in the past. There is a strong case at 2/1. Will Take Charge gets three pounds not at WFA in the BC Cup but trainer motivation questionable. Golden Ticket is hard to weigh up. Bourbon Courage gets 9lbs off GOD and is a solid Grade 3 horse. Easter Gift could step forward with a better pace scenario. Our Double Play offers angles even if distance, most form and lead competition too hot. The other three seem to be spoilers and toilers at best.

This seems like Bourbon Courage's target is and 8s offers some EW play if that's your bag given how after thoughty this race must be for everyone else.

1pt EW Bourbon Courage 8/1
oh and 0.25pt Our Double Play 25s or PMU


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