The Todd Pletcher-trained A.P. Arrow survived a cavalry charge at the head of the lane, and a stretch duel with Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat to win the $554,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23, bumping his career earnings past the $1-million mark.
Third to Premium Tap in last year’s edition of the Clark, A.P. Arrow got his first win since a March 31 victory in Gulfstream Park’s Skip Away Handicap (gr. III). The winners’ share of $329,741 from the Clark purse boosted his career earnings to $1,028,290. Except for a sixth-place finish in the June 30 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), the hard-knocking 5-year-old has hit the board in every start since last year’s Clark.
"The horse ran very well and the team did a great job of having him ready," Pletcher said. "I am very pleased. He is a horse that consistently has been running well. Today, he got a really good position early and I think that made the difference."
The addition of blinkers seemed to help A.P. Arrow focus as he broke well and was held in fourth by jockey Ramon Dominguez. Plug Me In took the lead to go the opening quarter-mile in :23.97 under Brian Hernandez Jr., while Fairbanks pressed the pace and Magna Graduate was third. Brass Hat ran fifth to the outside of A.P. Arrow through a half-mile in :47.61, and that order was unchanged while they headed up the backstretch in 1:11.41 for three-quarters of a mile.
Going into the far turn, Fairbanks grabbed a brief lead, but A.P. Arrow and Brass Hat were both on the move, coming up the three path as they hit the head of the stretch. In spite of bumping from Brass Hat at the three-sixteenths pole, A.P. Arrow got ahead by three-quarters of a length as Brass Hat gutted it out at his flank. Diamond Stripes came up to finish third, while Istan, the 2-1 favorite, was fourth. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:48.66.
"The race unfolded just like Todd envisioned it," Dominguez said. "I was able to split horses to get in front and just make sure that he was going to stay there. The other horse (Brass Hat) was always trying to charge him, but he was making sure that he was going to stay (behind him)."
"He ran his race, he just got outrun," trainer Willaim "Buff" Bradley said of Brass Hat's performance. "It's great to see him be so game, though. This horse likes this track and its fun just to be in a race of this caliber with a horse like him. Now we're done for this year. We'll probably plan something in the south this winter."
Sent off at odds of 10-1, A.P. Arrow returned $22.40, $10, and $5.20. Brass Hat and jockey Willie Martinez paid $3.20 and $8.40, while Diamond Stripes and Cornelio Velasquez brought $3.20 to show. Fairbanks, Magna Graduate, Going Ballistic, Purim, and Plug Me In completed the order of finish.
A 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy, A.P. Arrow came off a third-place finish in the Sept. 29 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) to get his first grade II victory. An Allen E. Paulson Living Trust homebred foaled in Kentucky out of the Mr. Prospector mare Garimpeiro, he now has a lifetime record of 5-4-6 from 20 starts. According to Pletcher, he will now train toward a start in Gulfstream Park's Donn Handicap (gr. I) in February.