Royal Prodigy Looks to Defend Clark Crown

Clark Handicap (Grade 1)- $500.000 Purse
CD- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
November 24, 2017

Who needs to go shopping when we have fantastic racing on Friday at CD, which is highlighted by the 14th running of the Clark Handicap, a nine furlong event on the main track that’s close enough to the BC to give many other stars of the game a chance to win the race, while being far enough away for BC runners to make the trip east on shorter then normal rest. We initially had nine entrants, but that number was quickly reduced to eight, and that is where we stand now. The reigning champion of the race is Royal Prodigy, for Mb Stables, and he is returning for this race to try and make it a double. That has never been done in the history of the race. Mb Stables is also the only trainer that has won this race more then once, as he also did so in 2013 with the late Generals Road. This field is attractive and loaded, so Royal Prodigy will not have it easy at all. Weights for this handicap range between 118 and 121 pounds, so there is not anything particularly unusual in that regard. Let’s take this moment to meet our runners.

#1- Rookaholic (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by D Moran)- Returns to the main track for the first time since January, but he has been preparing for this for about two months. Recent works are showing quite a bit of promise on the dirt, so the transition should be fine. When on the grass, Rookaholic has struggled to win anything that big, but did manage a second place showing in the four-horse MTH Stakes, a Grade 2, in late July. Unfortunately, he never really did follow up that race well, and his last race, the Grade 2 Henry Championship at SA got the trainer thinking about alternatives to get him kickstarted again.

#2- Playmaker (RNP Stables, ridden by P Husbands)- The four year old gelding makes his 13th start of the year, and 19th overall in the Clark Handicap. He’s won three races this year, but nothing since May. He’s still been running well, and with a little more luck, there were a pair of runner ups in September at BEL, including the $125.000 Cole Stakes for NY-breds, where he showed plenty of promise. Graded stake attempts have been tougher for him, and he has never attempted a race like this. I wish he would have run a little better in the Empire Classic, his last start, to be able to have more confidence.

#3- Copper Beast (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- Copper Beast is now under new ownership. That’s right, he is now property of Night Rider after a private sales transaction with John Henry on the 13th for $350.000. That’s a little less then half what John Henry paid for him, but the prior trainer was able to get a Travers victory in their first start together. What seemed to be a promising beginning ended with several close, but no cigar finishes. Night Rider hopes for the same successful first race together, but after a second place showing at the $175.000 ungraded OK Classics at RP, you can see why John Henry made the deal. Now, we see if he can rebound. Speed figures don’t show a drop off in ability, so he should be competitive here.

#4- Royal Prodigy (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- As we alluded to in the introduction, Royal Prodigy is the defending champion of the Clark Handicap, and he should be ready to made a strong defense of that crown. Since that victory, he’s won two other races, which have been a pair of Grade 3 events: The Excelsior at AQU in April, as well as the Durham Cup up at WO. When the trainer has looked for a greater victory for Royal Prodigy, other then a Grade 3, he’s been a lot like Copper Beast in that he knows how to be close, but has not been able to get that bigger win.

#5- Withdrawn (John Henry, ridden by J R Leparoux)- The trainer will not be feeling withdrawn about watching Copper Beast in this race, thanks to Withdrawn. This three year old is the high weight of the field, at 121 pounds, by virtue of a win last month at KEE at the Grade 2 Fayette, a race in which he defeated Royal Prodigy and Swept Twice. It was one of two wins for him. Overall, his 2017 campaign has been a little inconsistent, as it seems that recently when he runs one of his best races, he follows it up in an underwhelming fashion. I would love to see him string a pair of wins together.

#6- Atletico (Our Athletes, ridden by F Geroux)- This three year old colt has just two wins in fourteen career starts, with just one other race ending up in the money. So, this horse that has finished off the board in eleven of fourteen will be seen as a longshot. His claim to fame came on April Fools Day, and perhaps that was not a good omen. The race was the Grade 2 LA Derby, where he earned a 101 SRF, and everything seemed great. He did not follow that up well in the TC, but that can be forgiven. Recent results though do not get me excited. He has not raced since the end of September, so maybe the time off will lead to something special.

#7- Swept Twice (Gdp Inc, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- In a race where there are some bigger names that have had a little trouble getting to the winner’s circle or seem inconsistent, I was looking for the outsider to make my pick for this race. That pick is right here with Swept Twice. First of all, there is nothing wrong with his resume, having won three of eight, which include the $150.000 PA Derby Champion Stakes, which he followed up by running second in the Grade 2 Fayette, beating Royal Prodigy, though beaten by Withdrawn. He may be in his prime right now, and he’s showing he knows how to finish the job. I look for him to get the big win here.

#8- Made To Sin (John Henry, ridden by R Bejarano)- It seems like an eternity that we were once talking about Made To Sin as a top KYD threat. At a time where we are all getting excited about two year old stars, Made To Sin shows that sometimes, a horse just can’t live up to the hype. That’s unfortunate for John Henry, who paid $450.000 to acquire him. Like Copper Beast was, the first race together with John Henry was a success, a win in the Fountain Of Youth, but he still has not won since that race. Still like Copper Beast, he still has been good, and has been close, and thanks to that he got to the BC Dirt Mile, and ran a respectable fifth. Maybe its his time of year.

Prediction: 7-8-4-3

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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