The Bob Baffert trained Game On Dude is looking to rebound off his ninth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) when he takes on eight rivals in Friday’s $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The gelding’s poor showing in the Classic cost him Horse of the Year honors for the second year in a row. This year he came into the Classic riding a six-race winning streak and finished 11 lengths behind the winner Mucho Macho Man at 8-5.
Last year the gelding came into the Classic off a victory in the Awesome Again (G1) and was sent off as the 6-5 chalk, but was not much of a threat in a seventh place finish, beaten 15 lengths.
Last year he bounced out of the Classic with a sharp win in the Native Diver (G3) at Hollywood Park, and Baffert is hoping for a similar turnaround this year.
Among those standing in his way is Will Take Charge, who was beaten just a nose in the Classic. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee was dusted by a combined 45 lengths in the Triple Crown races, but has bounced out of the classics and run four solid races.
He was second in the Jim Dandy (G2), and then won the Travers (G1) and the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) before just missing in the Classic. A victory in the Clark likely will sew up the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old, although many voters may have already penciled him in after his effort in the Classic, which was his first start against older.
The colt is coming off a career top, his third in four starts, and I am looking for a bit more value in the bottom half of the exacta.
Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for Friday’s featured race of the day:
Churchill Downs Race 11 The Clark Handicap (G1) Post time 5:35 ET
1 Game On Dude 8-5
4 Golden Ticket 9-2
3 Bourbon Courage 8-1
7 Will Take Charge 9-5
Game On Dude is coming off a disappointing ninth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the second year in a row a poor showing as the favorite cost the gelding Horse of the year honors. The Bob Baffert trainee came into the Classic perfect in five starts this year. Last year he came into the Classic just as sharp and flopped, and then bounced back by winning the Native Diver (G3) a month later.
There are a couple of runners that are breaking from the outside that have some early zip, but jockey Mike Smith should be able to get a good trip on or sitting just off the early pace. The gelding has worked sharply since the Classic and figures to rebound here.
Golden Ticket stalked a sharp early pace from the inside, angled out for the stretch drive and finished up well for the runner up spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), beaten 2 ¾ lengths by the gate to wire winner Goldencents. The racing strip that day was kind to speed. Two back the colt was fourth in the Awesome Again (G1) behind the winner Mucho Macho Man, who came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in his next start.
The Ken McPeek trainee has run well over the Churchill Downs main track, landing in the exacta in four of five trips including a runner up finish in the Stephen Foster (G1) behind Fort Larned. The colt looks primed for a top effort here in his third start of his current form cycle.
Bourbon Courage tracked the early pace and could not catch the gate to wire winner Our Double Play last out in a third level optional claimer. The outing was his first start off a 5 ½-month layoff. The colt ran third in this race last year, beaten a length for the top spot and ran well early this year with a second in the Donn ‘Cap (G1) and a third in the New Orleans ‘Cap (G2), both behind Graydar. The colt will be tighter second off the bench and may end up getting overlooked on the tote in this spot.
WIN: Game On Dude to win at 8-5 or better.
EXACTA: 1,4 / 1,3,4,7
TRIFECTA: 1,4 / 1,3,4,7 / 1,3,4,6,7