by Jeremy Plonk
November 27, 2019
GRADE 1 $600,000 CLARK HANDICAP AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
It may be Black Friday for holiday shoppers, but why can't we color it green or gold for horseplayers? Friday's Grade 1 Clark Handicap has attracted a dozen runners and should be an outstanding betting race if you can mold an opinion. The 1-1/8 miles event goes as Race 11 with post time just before 6 pm ET.
SEEKING THE SOUL is a G1 winner. BRAVAZO is multiple G1-placed. TOM'S d'ETAT is a recent G2 winner. OWENDALE, MOCITO ROJO, MR FREEZE and DRAFT PICK are G3 winners. No doubt SEEKING THE SOUL has consistently kept the best running lines in terms of competition, and he's the most accomplished.
MAJOR CABBIE, FACT FINDING, MR. BUFF, MR FREEZE and PIONEER SPIRIT all will contend for the front based on their preferred styles, while DRAFT PICK and TOM'S d'ETAT also are plenty fast. This should be a hot pace and give come-from-behinders a good chance to strut their stuff.
BRAVAZO and SEEKING THE SOUL are back from last year's Clark 2-3 finish behind City of Light. They arrive at the rematch after vastly different seasons. BRAVAZO has been sidelined since January's Pegasus World Cup, while SEEKING THE SOUL has gone to Dubai and back for the Breeders' Cup Classic with a victory in Churchill's Stephen Foster in-between. BRAVAZO was a workhorse when in his form cycle, one of his most endearing traits was the ability to push through the seasons more capably than others of his generation. He's training like he means business and you have to think this gets him back to the Pegasus World Cup path and the rich date in January. SEEKING THE SOUL didn't fire in his 2 tries over the deep Santa Anita autumn surface. At age 6, there's some question whether he's still a top-rated puncher; but there's no doubt about his affinity for Churchill Downs.
TOM'S d'ETAT, MR FREEZE and MOCITO ROJO rematch from Keeneland's Fayette, where TOM'S d'ETAT dominated in the slop after pressing MR FREEZE on a weak pace. You have to think this pace shakes out way faster than that one. Perhaps the wet track did in MOCITO ROJO who absolutely wasn't himself that day. This is a tougher field for sure than he faced when winning the G3 Lukas Classic at Churchill, so maybe it's equal parts strength of schedule and track condition. Either way, TOM'S d'ETAT is the most attractive of this trio, and he'll have his pace work cut out for him if he's going to repeat stakes wins.
SNAPPER SINCLAIR exits a distant fourth in a BC Dirt Mile edition that lacked depth. Spun to Run was awfully good while Omaha Beach was the only real hammer in the field. This has always been a listed-stakes type and I think a cut below the best in here. Still, he's an honest sort for a respected barn.
OWENDALE is the 3-year-old representative in this field and should appreciate the fast pace in front him. The Preakness third-place finisher has added the Ohio Derby and Oklahoma Derby, but didn't get a clean run at all in the Breeders' Cup Classic when first testing older horses. Trainer Brad Cox has been dominant most everywhere, especially Churchill Downs, and OWENDALE is 5: 3-1-0 with Florent Geroux aboard. He should be the better price compared with SEEKING THE SOUL and both need the same kind of trip.
DRAFT PICK represents the west coast, which was down this year in the handicap ranks and still managed the Breeders' Cup Classic 2-3 finishers with McKinzie and Higher Power. While you might think he has to send from the rail, there's too much other speed to get caught up into that. This is an even-paced type who will see if his :24s can manage to coax the field back to him and hold off the closers.
FACT FINDING and MAJOR CABBIE exit sharp Keeneland allowance scores. If not for a wicked pace scenario, you'd consider either of these dangerous on the class rise. MAJOR CABBIE's trainer Peter Miller has been beyond hot with his Churchill runners at the current meet. Of the duo, you'd have to lean toward Miller's player based on recent results.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: SEEKING THE SOUL is 10-for-12 in the trifecta at Churchill and gets the right pace set-up for his close.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: DRAFT PICK has been 13-1 and 14-1 in his last 2 and doesn't need the front to be successful. He could slip under the partimutuel cracks and factor on his best.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $100 win OWENDALE.