Include, Gander Top Field for Clark Handicap

From Churchill Downs
If you're looking for major contenders in Friday's 127th renewal of the historic Clark Handicap (grade II), simply follow the money. And when you follow that trail, you don't have to take many steps until you run into Gander.

The morning line favorite for the 1 1/8-miles race is Robert Meyerhoff's Include, the winner of the Pimlico Special (gr. I) and Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II) who has amassed career earnings of $1,442,160. But just behind Include is Gander, who defeated Include in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) to pump his career bankroll to $1,304,128. A win by the John Terranova-trained gray gelding in their rematch would not only push the 5-year-old Gander past Include in career earnings, but could send a message about which horses will be the stars of a 2002 division of handicap horses that will be missing the likes of Tiznow, Aptitude and Point Given.

"You know he's always going to give his best," said Terranova. "Sometimes he gets it done and he gets at least a piece of some of these big pots here and there."

Gander, a New York-bred owned by Gatsas Thoroughbreds, has a record of 10-7-6 in 39 races. He has won twice in nine starts this year and has earned $543,500. Along with his Meadowlands Cup win, the versatile Gander finished third to Lido Palace in the Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga and was a runner-up to Hap in the New Hampshire Sweepstakes (gr. III) on the turf at Rockingham Park. He is coming off a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), but Terranova said his veteran was eliminated at the start that day at Belmont Park.

"He kind of got crushed at the start of that one and lost all chance," said Terranova. "He really got in a lot of trouble in the race and it was just a terrible race for him."

Despite the rough journey, Gander came out of the race in good shape and Terranova started looking for one more race. He began to steer away from the Clark when there was talk that horses such as Tiznow and Lido Palace might show up for the race, but his attention drifted back toward Louisville when it became clear that those horses would be elsewhere over the Thanksgiving weekend.

"He's in great shape and training well," Terranova said. "He hasn't missed a step since then, so we decided to stick to our plan and come here."

Terranova said Gander will get some farm rest after this race and should be fresh for a campaign at six.

"Hopefully we'll have him around a few more years," said Terranova. "He's a great horse to have. He always tries hard. Sometimes he gets a little unlucky and things don't work out for him, but he usually runs an honest race and gives it his all."

The last member of the Clark Handicap cast, Robert and Beverly Lewis' Tribunal, arrived at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Assistant John Good will saddle the California-based colt for trainer Bob Baffert.

The field for the Clark Handicap:

1--Tahkodha Hills, 110, Mark Guidry, 15-1
2--Ubiquity, 110, Craig Perret, 12-1
3--Tribunal, 111, Jon Court, 10-1
4--Storm Day, 111, Calvin Borel, 15-1
5--Mr Ross, 114, Don Pettinger, 8-1
6--Woodmoon, 109, Tony D'Amico, 20-1
7--Include, 120, Pat Day, 2-1
8--Gander, 115, Jorge Chavez, 3-1
9--Connected, 116, Larry Melancon, 6-1
10--Outofthebox, 116, Robby Albarado, 6-1