Clark Handicap (Grade 1)- $500.000 Purse
CD- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
November 29, 2019
There is no reason to fight the crowds shopping on Friday, because there is plenty of good virtual racing to enjoy! The highlight of the day is the 16th running of the Grade 1 Handicap, which is probably the highest purse that has been offered in the game since the BC. While the handicap nature of the race will keep the best horses away from the race, we are still treated to a group of horses that have been running in some big races recently and they hope to finish off their year successfully. The winner of the race last year was A Storm Has Arrived, for Maxmillion Farm. Since the race, he has won three of seven, and included in that are two graded wins. Not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination. Our field of nine will hope to achieve similar, if not better, success, so let’s meet our runners!
#1- Eclipse My Knowledge (Nakamura Stables, ridden by A Beschizza)- We start off with the highweight in the field, as Eclipse My Knowledge carries 121 pounds. With the rest of the field carrying behind 118 and 120, I don’t think that is necessarily a deal breaker, but worth a mention to say the least. He’s won his last two, as well as three of his last four, and he comes off a three length win right here in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic over Crush Spebrate and Xmas Snow, as well as the now retired State Police. If he can duplicate that run, he may well get it done again.
#2- Smugglers Blues (John Henry, ridden by J R Velazquez)- The three year old has won once in his nine starts this year, coming in the IND Derby back in July. The trainer hoped that he would follow up that race well in the Travers, but it wasn’t meant to be and he failed to beat anyone. A little more concerning was what is a very flat race line after that in the Grade 3 OK Derby at RP. He’s had a couple months now to think about it, and he is coming off an excellent work at CRC earlier this month, so he may be ready for a bounce back.
#3- Dastardly Havoc (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by R Bejarano)- He is one of two horses in this field that comes out of the JC Gold Cup and the traditionally loaded fields that the race produces. Because of that, we don’t need to harp on the fact that the two runners coming out of that race finished 12th and 13th. What we can focus on, in the case of Dastardly Havoc, is that the race was probably a little too long for him, and cutting back a furlong will be beneficial. He’s been good this year, but has only won once, that being the OP Handicap in April..
#4- L A Raw (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by M J Sanchez)- Now, the other horse that came out of the JC Gold Cup, and as we said with Dastardly Havoc, don’t get too concerned about his finishing position in the race. With L A Raw, I would be more concerned about his overall consistency. His last six races only has one respectable finish, though it was a great result, winning the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. Can that L A Raw show up again? If so, then he has a shot, but I shy away from this type of horse.
#5- Having A Blast (Mb Stables, ridden by J Talamo)- Certainly this is something that the trainer often has on race day, or at least I’d like to think that way! The Semantics gelding has won three of nine races this year, but has been very good in all but one of those races. Even if you go back into last year, you can see that while he might not win all the time, he is almost always in the mix. He was last seen a month ago at AQU for the NY-bred Empire Classic, and finished fourth. He is one of the low weights in here at 118 pounds, but I don’t think that is much of the difference. I feel he will hit the board, but I am reluctant to put him on top.
#6- Crush Spebrate (Diablo Diablo, ridden by D Davis)- The four year old gelding was acquired in private sales for just $20.000 in April, and has gone on to show some potential at the higher levels. That’s really the best that can be said about him at this point, since he is unproven in graded stakes, and he was a disappointing eighth in the Lukas Classic in his last start. He was five lengths behind the winner, Eclipse My Knowledge, so will have to overcome that with conditions being almost exactly the same. He’s due for a signature win, but don’t think it is here.
#7- Dustu (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by C J Lanerie)- One of three horses in the field that is coming off a victory. For Dustu, that came in the WV Breeders Classic at the bullring at CT, a $300.000 race for WV-breds. While a small field, there was some quality opposition there. So far, he has spent a lot his career at CT, and I really wish I could have seen some more history on him in races like this. It is in fact, his graded race in a very long time, and it seems a little overdue.
#8- Xmas Snow (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by D E Centeno)- The second of the two entries in here for the trainer as he looks to win the race for the second straight year. He was last seen in the Lukas Classic, where he ran third to Eclipse My Knowledge, and was beaten by three lengths. That race represented a return to the main track after seeing his virtually his entire career on the grass. I’m torn on whether or not I think he can overcome those three lengths here on Eclipse My Knowledge, as I think the trainer can make the adjustments needed.
#9- Dauzac (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by T Gaffalione)- This is third horse in the field that won his last start, and that came north at the Grade 3 ONT Derby in what was a sharp looking effort. Overall, this is horse to love for his consistency, as other then this debut, he has never failed to finish in the top four. That has carried into the graded ranks in not only the ONT Derby. This is a great opportunity, to say the least, for him, and think he will take advantage of it.