Clock Stopper has been installed as the 2-1 favorite in a field of seven older sprinters, but Stewart knows the race is far from a walkover.
"It's a tough race," he said. "Are you sure it's not the Aristides?"
The opposition in Clock Stopper's comeback includes stakes veterans Mountain General, winner of last year's Aristides Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, Strength and Honor and Discreet Hero. But Stewart likes the way that Clock Stopper has been moving through his morning drills and expects a good effort in his first race since a victory in Keeneland's Perryville Stakes on Oct. 9.
"He's been training solid," he said. "We're excited about getting him back."
Stewart believes that Clock Stopper was on his way to being a top-notch sprinter when he went to the sidelines and sees no reason why he cannot continue on that path through the summer and fall.
"He hasn't shown me any signs of regression," Stewart said. "The races will be the tale of the tape."
It was disappointing enough for Stewart to see Clock Stopper's campaign come to a halt just before the Breeders' Cup Sprint. But it became even more so after Padua Stable and Joseph and John Iracane's Cajun Beat, who had beaten Clock Stopper by three-quarters of a length in the Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III) at Turfway Park in September, rolled to an upset win in the Sprint on Breeders' Cup Day.
"He was on top of his game," said Stewart. "It'll probably take a couple of races to get back to that level. But if all goes well, he'll come back and we'll be in good shape."
Clock Stopper brings a career record of 4-3-0 in nine races into Thursday's return to racing. He has amassed earnings of $189,361 in his career.
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