Godolphin’s multiple graded stakes winning colt Maxfield drew post No. 8 and will face a talented field of seven rivals that entered Friday’s 147th running of the Grade I, $750,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare, the premier race of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet.
The 1 1/8-mile Clark will go as the featured 11th race at 5:56 p.m. (all times Eastern). The first race for the 12-race program is 1 p.m.
The Clark, named in honor of Churchill Downs founder Col. Merriweather Lewis Clark, is one of four stakes events that was staged during the inaugural meeting in 1875. Throughout the past 146 years, some of racing’s biggest superstars have won the Clark such as multiple champion Gun Runner (2016), Hall of Famer Wise Dan (2011), Horse of the Year Blame (2009), Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Silver Charm (1998) and Triple Crown winner Whirlaway (1942).
In Friday’s edition, Maxfield will attempt to notch another Grade I victory in his final career start. Trained by Brendan Walsh, Maxfield won the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) as a 2-year-old. The Street Sense colt was originally on target for the delayed 2020 Kentucky Derby following his one-length victory in the $150,000 Matt Winn (GIII) but was forced to the sidelines with a minor injury.
Maxfield’s 2021 campaign includes two victories at Churchill Downs in the $400,000 Alysheba and $600,000 Stephen Foster (GII). The talented Kentucky-bred finished second to eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) hero Knicks Go in the $1 million Whitney (GI) and second to front-running Art Collector in the $500,000 Woodward (GI). Overall, Maxfield sports a stout career record of 7-2-1 from 10 starts and earnings of $1,550,902. He will be ridden in the Clark by regular rider Jose Ortiz.
Chief among Maxfield’s Clark adversaries is Winchell Thoroughbreds’ improving 3-year-old Midnight Bourbon. Campaigned by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon was prominent in nearly all of the top 3-year-old races this year. The Tiznow colt finished a troubled sixth in the Kentucky Derby (GI) when he broke slow from the starting gate and was forced wide on both turns. Following the Derby, Midnight Bourbon took the lead in the final turn of the $1 million Preakness (GI) but ultimately gave way to finish second behind Rombauer. Midnight Bourbon enters the Clark following back-to-back runner-up finishes in the $1.25 million Travers (GI) and $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GI). Jockey Joel Rosario, who won the 2019 edition of the Clark aboard Tom’s d’Etat, will have the call from the rail.
The last 3-year-old to win the Clark was Gun Runner.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher entered two horses in this year’s Clark: St. Elias Stable’s two-time graded stakes winner Dr Post and Wertheimer and Frere’s Grade I victor Happy Saver.
In his last start, Dr Post finished one-length behind Maxfield in the Woodward. The 4-year-old son of Quality Road has a pair of Grade III victories this year in the $200,000 Westchester (GIII) and $300,000 Monmouth Cup (GIII). As a late-developing 3-year-old a year ago, Dr Post was the runner-up finisher to Tiz the Law in the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI) and finished third to Authentic and New York Traffic in the Haskell (GI). North America’s leading jockey by wins, Irad Ortiz Jr., will be in the saddle from post 3.
Happy Saver, a 4-year-old chestnut colt by Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby-winner Super Saver, was second last out in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI). He won the 2020 edition of the race by three-quarters of a length. The five-time winner from seven starts will cut back in distance after competing at the 1 ¼-mile distance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the $400,000 Suburban (GII), where he finished third. Churchill Downs leading rider Tyler Gaffalione has the call from post 4.
Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s $200,000 Lexington Stakes (GIII) winner King Fury, trained by Kenny McPeek, stormed home to a 13-length triumph in the $275,000 Bourbon Trail at Churchill Downs. In his subsequent start, the Curlin colt finished third over the sloppy surface in Keeneland’s $200,000 Fayette (GII). Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride from post 5.
Completing this year’s Clark field is the Estate of James Coleman Jr.’s Grade II winner Chess Chief; Steve Landers Racing’s 2020 $100,000 Cornhusker (GIII) hero Night Ops; and J and J Stables and Pricilla Vaccarezza’s turf allowance winner Militarist.
Here is the full field for the Clark from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Midnight Bourbon (Rosario, Asmussen); Night Ops (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox); Dr Post (Irad Ortiz Jr., Pletcher); Happy Saver (Gaffalione, Pletcher); King Fury (Hernandez, McPeek); Chess Chief (Joe Talamo, Dallas Stewart); Militarist (Rafael Bejarano, Carlo Vaccarezza); and Maxfield (Jose Ortiz, Walsh).
Wagering is available online at www.TwinSpires.com, the official ADW of Churchill Downs Incorporated.
Churchill Downs Press Release
Photo: Maxfield, (Churchill Downs)