A year ago, a lightly raced 3-year-old named Blame used a victory in the Fayette Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland as a springboard to victory in his subsequent start in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. As most everyone knows, Blame returned to Churchill this November and won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) for owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and trainer Al Stall Jr.
On Friday, Nov. 26, history could repeat itself in the Clark as Morton Fink’s Successful Dan, winner of this year’s Fayette, is set to carry 121 pounds and concede from three to six pounds to 10 rivals as the favorite in the 136th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap (now a grade I) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.
The Clark will go as the 11th event on a 12-race “Black Friday” holiday racing program that begins at 12:40 p.m. (EST). Post time for the Clark is 5:42 p.m.
Like Blame, Successful Dan will be making his eighth career start in the Clark. Trained by Charles Lopresti, Successful Dan is undefeated at Churchill Downs, having won an allowance race in May 2009 and following that up with a victory over future grade I winner Warrior’s Reward in the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) the following month.
Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for the two Churchill Downs victories and four of the 4-year-old gelding’s five career wins, has the Clark mount on Successful Dan, who will break from post three. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed him as the 5-2 morning line favorite.
Another Clark starter who is following even closer in Blame’s footsteps is his Stall-trained stablemate Apart. Bred and owned by Dilschneider, Apart will be making his eighth career start in the Clark and, like Blame, is ridden by Garrett Gomez and based at Keeneland.
The 3-year-old Apart, the 7-2 second choice in the morning line, brings a three-race win streak into Friday’s race, highlighted by a September victory in the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs and a three-quarter- length win over older rivals in the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Nov. 5.
Gomez, who was aboard for the Ack Ack win, returns to the saddle aboard Apart, who will carry 118 pounds and break from post position two.
Six other graded stakes winners on dirt are in the field, topped by the 9-year-old veteran Brass Hat, who won the 2006 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park for one of his six graded stakes victories. Trained by Buff Bradley for his father, Fred, Brass Hat ran second to A.P. Arrow in the 2007 Clark. The homebred Prized gelding brings a record of 10 wins and 13 placings from 39 career races and earnings of $2,167,921. Brass Hat’s latest win came in his most recent start, when he rallied from last in a field of 12 to take the $100,000 Sycamore Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 ½ miles at Keeneland.
Brass Hat (15-1) will carry 116 pounds and be ridden by Tony Farina as he tries to join the ranks of such veteran stars as John Henry, The Tin Man, John’s Call, and Super Diamond in winning a grade I stakes at the advanced racing age of 9. Brass Hat will break from post position six. Farina will ride Brass Hat as regular jockey Calvin Borel continues his recovery from surgery to repair a broken jaw suffered in a fall last weekend at Lousiana’s Delta Downs.
The other graded stakes winners on dirt in the field are Regal Ransom , Redding Colliery, Demarcation, Duke of Mischief , and Win Willy. Stately Victor , who finished eighth in this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) over Polytrack at Keeneland in April. Dubious Miss, who is a gelding, won the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, also in April.
Godolphin Racing’s Regal Ransom is the 9-2 third choice. The son of Distorted Humor, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, counts the 2009 UAE Derby (UAE-II) at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba and the Super Derby among his four career wins, with the latter coming at the expense of runner-up Blame. But Regal Ransom finished a distant sixth to Tizway as the even-money favorite in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park in his most recent start. Freddie Lenclud will ride at 116 pounds.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Redding Colliery won the recent Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) by three-quarters of a length over Clark rival Giant Oak, who finished fourth to Blame both in last year’s Clark and the 2010 Stephen Foster Stakes (gr. I) at Churchill. Demarcation won last year’s Ack Ack and was second to Apart in this year’s renewal for Louisville-based trainer Paul McGee. Duke of Mischief edged Win Willy in this year’s Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), while the latter won last year’s Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
Clark Handicap (gr. I, $500,000, Race 11, 5:42 p.m.) 3-year-olds and up, 1 1 1/8 miles
Post Horse Jockey Weight Trainer Odds
1) Dubious Miss R Albarado 116 P J McGee 15-1
2) Apart G K Gomez 118 A M Stall Jr. 7-2
3) Successful Dan J R Leparoux 121 C Lopresti 5-2
4) Giant Oak S Bridgmohan 115 C M Block 15-1
5) Redding Colliery A R Napravnik 117 K P McLaughlin 10-1
6) Brass Hat T Farina 116 W Bradley 15-1
7) Stately Victor V Lebron 116 M J Maker 10-1
8) Win Willy M C Berry 116 M Robertson 10-1
9) Regal Ransom F Lenclud 116 S bin Suroor 9-2
10) Demarcation K J Desormeaux 116 P J McGee 12-1
11) Duke of Mischief E Coa 116 D Fawkes 12-1