2018 Thanksgiving Handicapping Feast: Clark Handicap and Mrs. Revere Stakes

The holiday weekend continues on Friday, and right here we continue our look at the graded stakes action in Louisville.  Churchill Downs's traditional day-after-Thanksgiving feature, the Clark, gives older handicap horses one more chance for a Grade 1, and often features some three-year-olds getting used to facing older company.  This year, the field of eight horses fighting for their share of the $500,000 purse contains just one sophomore -- of course, it's BRAVAZO.  The D. Wayne Lukas charge has danced every dance this year, piling up over a million dollars in earnings across ten starts this year, and he comes in off a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).  Friday's card at Churchill also gives sophomore turf route fillies a late-season shot against their own age group, as twelve have passed the entry box to vie for the $200,000 purse in the Mrs. Revere (G2).

In addition to Friday's stakes action at Churchill, we also look at their Thursday pair of graded stakes, the Cardinal Handicap (G3) and the Falls City Handicap (G2), as well as their two juvenile stakes on Saturday, the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and the Golden Rod (G2).  We also turn our eyes locally -- there's a $3,737 carryover into the Pick 5 at Hawthorne, so we delve into that sequence as well.

Selections for the Mrs. Revere Stakes are for turf only.  Morning lines were not available at original publish time; updated November 21 to add morning lines.

Friday, November 23 - Churchill Downs

Race 10: Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2), three-year-old fillies, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 5:27pm EST

Though Mrs. Revere never won a graded race herself, she was a force to be reckoned with at Churchill Downs in 1984 and 1985. During that time frame she won the Regret Stakes, Edgewood Stakes, Dogwood Stakes, and Kentucky Cardinal Stakes -- all of which did eventually earn grades.  The race was inaugurated in 1991 as a mile and a sixteenth turf test for three-year-olds, and has remained so throughout its history.  It first gained a grade in 1995, and was promoted to its current Grade 2 status in 1998.

Last year a Chicago trainer found the winners' circle in the Mrs. Revere, as Jim DiVito's Lovely Bernadette held on to prevail by half a length.  Another Mrs. Revere winner, Marketing Mix, was also quite familiar to Chicago-circuit followers: the Tom Proctor trainee, owned and bred by Glen Hill Farm, won this race in 2011.  She won the Pucker Up  (G3) at Arlignton earlier that year, and went on to run second in the Beverly D. (G1) the following year.

Another winner familiar here -- and, eventually, the world over -- was Mariah's Storm (1994).  The daughter of Rahy won several stakes on the Arlington dirt, including the 1993 Arlington-Washington Lassie (G2), the 1994 Arlington Heights Oaks (G3), and the 1995 Arlington Matron (G3).  She went on to have a stakes run in her honour over that oval.  As good as she was on the track, she was even better in the breeding shed.  Matings between her and Storm Cat produced world-class sire Giant's Causeway, top New York stallion Freud, Florida stallion Roar of the Tiger, and Grade 2 winner You'resothrilling.  Like her dam, You'resothrilling has also been a shining star in the breeding shed.  Matings between her and Galileo have produced five Group-level winners of five foals to race: multiple Group 1 winners Gleneagles and Happily, Group 1 winner Marvellous, multiple group stakes winner Taj Mahal (second behind Oscar Performance in the 2017 Secretariat S. (G1) at Arlington), and Group 3 winning/Group 1 placed Coolmore.

If the weather holds like it should, the rain should hold off until later on Friday, meaning the Mrs. Revere should be run over a turf course that has had plenty of time to dry out, and should be at least good.

STELLA DI CAMELOT will likely go off the heavy favourite. After all, her American debut was a sharp win in the Pebbles Stakes at Belmont, and trainer Chad Brown's lawnmowers always take outsized interest. Such hopes could be warranted -- the US debut was a strong one. But, with soft turf at Belmont that day, she may have just handled the softness underfoot better than the rest of the horses running in that race, or running through the day. With better going expected in the Mrs. Revere, STELLA DI CAMELOT will not likely have such a distinct advantage as she had last time. She may still handle the going, and she may still win, but in this competitive field she will most certainly be underlaid to do so. Cover her defensively on a multi-race wager, particularly if you have a price opinion elsewhere in the sequence, but she likely holds no appeal in the win pool.

GET EXPLICIT got no love when she invaded from Woodbine to run in the Valley View last month -- despite finishing in the money on the Keeneland grass both last fall and this past spring, the public let her off at 70/1. Yet, she kicked on late for the place, coming home just half a length shy of Colonia. GET EXPLICIT settled near the rear that day, but she dosn't need to. Look back at her form lines at Woodbine, and even her third-place finish in an allowance at Keeneland in April, and you'll see she has some tactical speed as well. This is a positive, because the race did not draw a lot of speed. And, though rider Ricardo Santana has never piloted GET EXPLICIT before? He is coming through in enough big races this year, and GET EXPLICIT is the kind of horse who has never had a regular rider, and yet keeps finding those good races. We'll give this versatile, consistent filly the nod to spring the upset.

COOL BEANS does have some tables to turn on GET EXPLICIT, but she should at least be close again and she does have some upside. The race did not draw a lot of speed -- perfect for her, because she is the speed horse in the race. Jockey Florent Geroux should be able to pop COOL BEANS out of the 5 gate and make the running. Her return at Keeneland, in the Valley View, was solid -- she set the mace, and just got run down late by Colonia and GET EXPLICIT. But, with that race under her, COOL BEANS has a right to stay on a little better -- especially since the Brad Cox barn fires as a hefty 27% second off a lay.


#5 COOL BEANS (4/1)

Longshot:  #3 ANGEL OF MISCHIEF (15/1) cedes her foes an experience edge: she has only run three times, and is one of only two who has not tried a stakes race yet.  but, what she has done so far has been solid: she just missed when debuting on the Ellis dirt, and has then fired off her maiden and N1X conditions in quick succession over grass.  ANGEL OF MISCHIEF gets a class test, but looks the versatile and classy sort to be able to handle it.  After all, she is speedy enough to find a forward spot in a sprint, but rateable enough to kick on from the rear in a route with an honest pace in front of her.  Though she loses rider Julien Leparoux (he is off to Aqueduct to ride Blamed in the G3 Comely), he gets a more than competent replacement in Tyler Gaffalione.  In short, this Norm Casse trainee doesn't need to find much to hold her own against these more experienced stakes horses.

Race 11: Clark Handicap (G1), three-year-olds and up, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 5:56 EST

The Clark Handicap will be run at Churchill Downs this year, just as it has been every year since 1875.  The race is named after Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, who started the Louisville Jockey Club along with his cousins, John and Henry Churchill.  (The name Meriwether Lewis Clark is no coincidence: he was a grandson of the very William Clark who went on the famous expedition with Meriwether Lewis).

The Clark was originally a two-mile race restricted to three-year-olds, though it was shortened in 1881 and opened to three-year-olds and up in 1902.  It has also been run at a variety of distances, as short at 1 1/16 miles.  It has covered today's nine-furlong distance for most of its history: 1896-1901, 1922-1924, and from 1955 to the present day.

The Clark Handicap serves as the anchor of the November meet at Churchill Downs, and is the first top-level race in the United States this year since the Breeders' Cup Classic.  From a local perspective, Illinois-bred Giant Oak won the 2010 edition of the Clark after Successful Dan (who crossed the wire just a head in front) was disqualified to third for bumping last-out Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Redding Colliery down the stretch.

Gun Runner wins his first career Grade 1 in the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Other notable winners of the Clark, among many, include 1881 Kentucky Derby winner and inaugural Hall of Fame inductee Hindoo (1881), hard-knocking war horses Old Rosebud (1917) and Exterminator (1922), 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway (1942), onetime Arlington stakes namesake Swoon's Son (1958), Hall of Fame inductee Silver Charm (1998), two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan (2011), and 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner (2016).

The Clark this year drew no shortage of speed. PRIME ATTRACTION and LEOFRIC, the frontrunning pair in the Fayette last month, will be joined by Loooch longshot and stretch-out sprinter STORM ADVISORY -- and the other Loooch standardbearer, SIGHTFORSOREEYES, won't be far behind.

This is great news for SEEKING THE SOUL, who looks well set for the repeat. The son of Perfect Soul has kept his love of Churchill alive. Two starts ago he won the Ack Ack (G3), and he followed that up with a dogged second-place finish behind City of Light in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Now he stretches out to a mile and an eighth: not only the distance at which he won this race last year, but one at which he has two wins and three other money finishes in seven career starts. SEEKING THE SOUL also has the right running style for this race: always off pace, but versatile as far as how far off pace he needs to be. John Velazquez judged it right when he rode SEEKING THE SOUL in the Clark last year, and he should be able to get him going right on time this year, too.

Beyond him, there are a lot who can hit the board, but there's no one else who is easy to love on top.  With so much speed, it's hard to see a frontrunner closing the deal, but LEOFRIC looks likely to stay on best of the bunch.  The grey son of Candy Ride can stay the trip, and found the frame in his only try at Churchill.  He has been on or near the lead whenever running against classier foes, but he has shown that he can rate of a lively pace, stay on even when it's not slow up front, and dig in gamely late.  That should be enough to make LEOFRIC the biggest threat -- if SEEKING THE SOUL runs his best that may still only be enough for second money, but he should be fighting on.

BRAVAZO is another one who has a reasonable chance to run into the money.  The sole three-year-old in the field, he has also been the rare horse nowadays who is such a good fit for D. Wayne Lukas's desire to dance every dance, and keep coming back for more.  BRAVAZO was most recently third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile -- giving him tables to turn on SEEKING THE SOUL, tables he probably won't turn because he is not as good a mile and an eighth horse as that one.  But, BRAVAZO has shown improving ability to sit off the pace as the year has gone on -- something that should have him plugging on for a piece down the lane.


#5 LEOFRIC (3/1)
#6 BRAVAZO (9/2)

Longshot:  There are two horses left to be discussed, both of whom have solid enough off-pace running styles.  There's HENCE, who likes the distance just fine, but hasn't proven himself to be a graded stakes horse this year, even in as marginal a Grade 1 as this.  With that out of the way, let's look to the other: #4 HAWAAKOM (15/1).  He has been hit-or-miss this year, but some of his better outings this year have been at Churchill.  He ran on for second in the Alysheba (G2) this spring, and though he ran fourth in the Stephen Foster (G1) in his next outing, he was only beaten a neck and a head for second.  Trainer Wesley Hawley has been firing well with limited chances this Churchill meet, with two wins in his first four starts this November.  With plenty of pace for HAWAAKOM to run down late, this is where the eight-year-old millionaire can find the frame once more at a price.


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