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Check out our predictions and odds for the Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs!
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
$10 Exacta Box - West Will Power and Proxy = $20
$5 Trifecta Part Wheel - West Will Power over Proxy and Rich Strike over Proxy, Rich Strike, Fulsome and Injunction = $30
$5 Trifecta Part Wheel - West Will Power over Rich Strike over Proxy and Fulsome = $10
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick West Will Power (5/2).
The upset winner of the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike will return to Churchill Downs in search of his first victory since the first Saturday in May when he headlines a field of seven set for Friday’s Grade 1 Clark Stakes.
The Eric Reed-trained son of Keen Ice has had four tries since his famous 80/1 victory, including a strong second to Hot Rod Charlie in the $500,000 Lukas Classic two starts back at Churchill.
Most recently, he finished a troubled fourth behind the powerhouse Flightline in the $6,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic three weeks ago at Keeneland.
Chief among his competition in the $750,00 Clark will be West Will Power. One of two in the race for trainer Brad Cox, the 5-year-old son of Bernardini comes into Friday’s test off in a career-best performance.
That effort came four weeks ago when he made all the running in the Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland, and cruised home a nearly 7-length winner.
Another who should get strong support in Friday’s 9-furlong feature is Proxy, who will be making his return to the races after more than 4 1/2-months away.
Although the Godolphin homebred has still yet to win a stakes race, he has never fared worse than fourth while running in many tough races against numerous top horses. Most recently he finished third behind Olympiad in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster.
After shocking the world with a stunning rally to win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and then running a dud in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, this son of Keen Ice has settled in to become a solid graded stakes performer.
Decent fourths in both the Grade 1 Travers and the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, sandwiching a just miss in the Grade 2 Lukas Classic, have proven that he can be competitive with anyone.
Still, he needs to pace to run at and I am not sure how much he will get here in the 9-furlong Clark. Coming out of solid efforts against top company, he is the one to beat. With only one career win outside of maiden claiming, I do feel like it’s worth a shot to beat him as the favorite.
This 5-year-old son of Bernardini looks to be better than ever. Having shown flashes of talent earlier in his career, he has returned from a long layoff to run three very good races. Each one better than the last, he comes off a powerful front-running score in the Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland.
Without a lot of early speed in the Clark, he should be able to get a very comfortable early position either on the lead or just off it. The big advantage he has over his top competition here is his good tactical speed.
Rich Strike and Proxy will have to run him down in the stretch and considering his recent form, I do not think that will be easy. With a nice win over the track two starts back, and coming off a career best effort, he is the top pick in this Grade 1 affair.
Trained by Michael Stidham, this Godolphin homebred will be making his first start since late spring when he rallied to be third best against top company in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster. Getting the same track and trip as his last race, he should be competitive if he is ready to run off the break.
The good news is that last time he ran off a layoff, he came back in good form with an easy win against allowance foes. Although he has yet to break through against stakes competition, he has run enough strong races against very good competition to know that he fits with this group.
Like Rich Strike, he will need to come from behind the pace, but his class and consistency give him a real shot to finally win that elusive first stakes race.
The last of the three come from behind horses in the seven-horse field, this son of Into Mischief knows his way to the winner’s circle. A winner of an 8-of-16 lifetime, he has won five stakes races over the past two seasons.
Like West Will Power, he is trained by Brad Cox but was no match for that one last time in the Fayette, where he rallied up to pass the rest for second place. With more pressure on his stablemate early on Friday perhaps he can do better in the Clark.
Overall, though, he looks to be a very nice horse who consistently falls a bit short against stronger competition. Having said that, he is quite playable underneath in the exotics.
This son of Skipshot continues to improve for trainer Carlo Vaccarezza. After running sixth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile early this year, he has been quite consistent. Two starts back he was able to deny a returning West Will Power in a listed stakes race at Ellis Park.
Most recently, he was involved all the way in the Grade 3 Ack Ack and ultimately came home second best, which added to his solid record at Churchill Downs.
It will be interesting to see if he goes right to the lead on Friday, or if he tries to stalk and pounce as he stretches out to nine furlongs. He is a threat off his recent form, but I do like West Will Power best of the speed.
An impressive winner of the Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap in April, this D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt has been unable to continue that success in four subsequent stakes tries.
Last out he chased West Will Power early in the Fayette, before weakening down the lane to finish a well-beaten third.
With only one win in six career starts at Churchill Downs, I do not see much reason to believe that he can turn the tables on Friday. I like others better.
A gelded son of Upstart, this 3-year-old has won two of three lifetime starts at Churchill Downs. Both wins came last fall, romping home in non-stakes action.
Unfortunately, he could not carry over his success to stakes racing, losing seven straight at that class, while never finishing better than fourth. Dropped down to allowance company last time at Keeneland, he turned in a career best effort to easily defeat a decent field.
Perhaps finally headed in the right direction again, he is worth a look as a longshot here, but I cannot get past his stakes record to consider him a true challenger here.
What: Clark Stakes (Grade 1)
Location: Churchill Downs
Time: Friday, November 25 -- 5:56 pm Eastern time
How to Watch: TVG
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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