Dortmund, Hoppertunity, Keen Ice Headline Clark Handicap Nominees
Dortmund, Hoppertunity, Keen Ice Headline Clark Handicap Nominees: Grade I-winning millionaires Dortmund, Hoppertunity and Keen Ice, along with Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) runner-up Effinex, top a star-studded roster of 23 horses that were nominated to the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI).
The 1 1/8-mile Clark, which will be contested at Churchill Downs for the 141st time on “Black Friday,” Nov. 27, annually lures some of the top 3-year-olds and up in the country and is the centerpiece of seven stakes events cumulatively worth $1.38 million that will be contested at Churchill Downs over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Nine of the 23 Clark nominations are 3-year-olds and include Kaleem Shah’s Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Dortmund, Donegal Racing LLC’s Travers champ Keen Ice, and Calumet Farm’s Ohio Derby winner Mr. Z. All competed in this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
Dortmund, trained by four-time Clark Handicap-winner Bob Baffert, made a successful return to the races in the Oct. 24 Big Bear Stakes at Santa Anita – his first start since finishing fourth in the Preakness (GI), the only off-the-board-finish of his nine-race career. Earlier in the year, he scored graded stakes victories at Santa Anita in the Robert B. Lewis (GII), San Felipe (GII) and Santa Anita Derby (GI).
Keen Ice, who made headlines by snapping Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah’s eight-race win streak in the Travers Stakes (GI) at Saratoga, looks to avenge a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 31.
Should Mr. Z compete in the Clark Handicap, he would be making his 12th start this year for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a two-time Clark winner with the filly Surfside (2000) and Will Take Charge (2013).
Tri-Bone Stables’ Suburban Handicap (GII) champ Effinex, the clear runner-up to American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at odds of 33-1, and Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Hoppertunity, the defending Clark winner, headline the group of older horses nominated to the Clark. Hoppertunity, also a Baffert trainee, won the San Pasqual (GII) at Santa Anita in January and has finished second in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI), Awesome Again (GI) and Fayette (GII).
If Hoppertunity goes for a second win in the Clark, he could become only the fourth horse to take back-to-back runnings of the race, joining Hodge (1915-16), Bold Favorite (1968-69), and Bob’s Dusty (1977-78).
Matthew Schera’s Oaklawn Handicap (GII) and Fayette (GII) winner Race Day heads six Todd Pletcher-trained horses nominated to the Clark. Pletcher, the nation’s leading trainer in money-won with $24.3 million, won the Clark on two occasions with Magna Graduate (2005) and A.P. Arrow (2007).
G. Watts Humphrey’s Frivolous is the lone mare nominated to the event and also is under consideration for the Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day for the final race of her career. Eleven females have won the Clark: Colonial Girl (1904), Polly Prim (1908), King’s Daughter (1910), Helen’s Babe (1927), Esseff (1934), Sentiment Sake (1945), Wistful (1951), Las Olas (1959), Watch Fob (1970), Fairway Flyer (1972) and Surfside (2000).
Other Clark nominees are Are You Kidding Me, Bradester, Commissioner, Cougar Ridge, Eagle, El Kabeir, Imperative, Looks to Spare, Madefromlucky, Majestic Harbor, Mylute, Protonico, Shotgun Kowboy, Street Strategy, Tale of Verve and Tommy Macho. Weights for the race will be released Friday.
Source: Churchill Downs