Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Diamond Stripes looks to rebound from an eighth-place finish in the slop in the Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) when he faces eight foes in a contentious renewal of the Clark Handicap (gr. II) Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs.
Diamond Stripes, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. and to be ridden by Cornelio Velaszquez, was assigned 120 pounds for the 1 1/8-mile Clark, two less than highweight Magna Graduate, who won the 2005 edition of the Clark. Magna Graduate, with John Velazquez named to ride, is one of three Todd Pletcher trainees entered.
Diamond Stripes, a 4-year-old Florida-bred by Notebook out of the On to Glory mare Romantic Summer, had five wins and three thirds in eight career starts heading into the Oct. 27 Classic, which was won by Curlin. The Classic, however, marked the gray gelding’s first race on an off track, so he may not have performed at his best.
In his previous start Oct. 5, Diamond Stripes rallied strongly to win the Meadowlands Cup Handicap (gr. II) on a fast track. Among his victims that day was Magna Graduate. Earlier in the year, the versatile Diamond Stripes finished third twice behind Lawyer Ron on fast tracks in Woodward Stakes (gr. I) and Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga.
At the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Clark, Diamond Stripes has three wins and three thirds in six starts.
Elisabeth Alexander’s Magna Graduate won the Razorback and Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicaps (both grade III) earlier this year. The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred by Honor Grades out of the Fast Play mare Peacock Alley finished second behind Flashy Bull in this year’s 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) on the Churchill dirt.
The Clark lured an interesting cast, including the 3-year-old colt Going Ballistic, who has been on a roll for owner Kindred Thoroughbreds and trainer Donnie Von Hemel. In his last two starts, Going Ballistic, a Florida-bred by Lite the Fuse , won the Centennial Oklahoma Derby and the Super Derby (gr. II) versus 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.
Going Ballistic, in his first start against older foes, gets in light at 115 pounds, with regular rider Cliff Berry named.
Others in the Clark are Purim, winner of the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland; A.P. Arrow, third in the 2006 Clark; Brass Hat, who set a track record for 1 1/16 miles at Churchill earlier this year; Plug Me In, a Southern California shipper; Fairbanks, second to Brass Hat in this year’s Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs; and Istan, impressive winner of the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill in his last start Nov. 3 in a rapid 1:34.03 for the mile.
Istan, a Kentucky-bred by Gone West, was purchased by Airdrie Stud after the Ack Ack. Plans call for the 5-year-old to stand at Airdrie in Central Kentucky in 2008. The week of Nov. 18, his connections were deciding on whether to race Istan in the Clark or the Nov. 24 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I), the draw for which takes place Nov. 22 at Aqueduct.
Here’s the field for the $500,000 Clark, with post positions, riders, and weights. The Clark is the 11th of 12 races on the card, with post time set for 4:29 p.m. EST.
1. Diamond Stripes (Cornelio Velasquez) 120
2. Magna Graduate (John Velazquez) 122
3. Purim (Jaime Theriot) 117
4. A.P. Arrow (Ramon Dominguez) 115
5. Brass Hat (Willie Martinez) 118
6. Plug Me In (Brian Hernandez Jr.) 114
7. Fairbanks (Edgar Prado) 116
8. Istan (Kent Desormeaux) 118
9. Going Ballistic (M. Cliff Berry) 115