Trademark Gets His Nose Down To Win G2 Clark

November 24, 2023

Trademark (outside) and Fernando De La Cruz capture the Clark (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

Churchill Downs Press Release

LOUISVILLE, Ky.— In a fierce battle down the stretch under the lights Friday at Churchill Downs, BBN Racing’s 4-year-old gelding Trademark emerged the winner in the 149th running of the $600,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade II) by prevailing in a tight head-bob photo with 6-5 favorite First Mission.

Trademark, who collected his first graded stakes win and became racing’s newest millionaire, clocked 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.95 under jockey Fernando De La Cruz, who rode the winner for trainer Vicki Oliver.

The lofty first prize of $357,600 lifted Trademark’s earnings to $1,055,865 from a record of 6-3-1 in 22 starts.

New York invader Film Star, on the outside, and 3-year-old Lexington (GII) winner First Mission, along the rail, raced in tandem on the lead through the first six furlongs in quarter-mile fractions of :23.27, :47.97 and 1:12.45 as Trademark relaxed just behind the duo while pinned inside by Giant Game who tracked from the outside.

Leaving the final turn, First Mission put away Film Star and took the lead at the top of the stretch, but De La Cruz tipped Trademark out three-wide when a hole opened and he hit his best stride. First Mission had a half-length advantage with a furlong to run but Trademark was surging and caught the leader with a sixteenth of a mile to run. Trademark poked his nose in front in the final 100 yards but First Mission fought back along the rail and a photo at the finish had to determine the narrow winner.

“I thought at the sixteenth pole I had a big shot at winning,” De La Cruz said. “He relaxed early and I saved ground, just waiting for the right opportunity to get him outside. He’s always been a very nice horse. I’ve been on him a couple of times and knew he was pretty tactical in his races. He showed a big turn of foot in the stretch and fought all the way to the wire.”

Via @ChurchillDowns on Twitter

First Mission’s trainer Brad Cox said: “He ran a huge race. I thought he was very game fighting back at the wire. We’re proud of how he ran.”

Prior to the Clark, Trademark finished a disappointing seventh of eight as the 2-1 favorite in the $310,538 Fayette (GII) on Oct. 28 at Keeneland after finishing second, a head behind Clapton, in the $438,660 Lukas Classic (GII) at Churchill Downs in September.

Trademark had won two prior stakes events but both were ungraded: the off-the-turf $300,000 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs last fall and July’s $102,725 Michael H. Schaefer Memorial at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

The Clark was Trademark’s fourth win in six starts over the Churchill Downs main dirt track.

“We knew he loves this track and he sure showed it tonight,” Oliver said. “He’s run some of his best races here which gave us confidence going into the race. He doesn’t like to be inside horses and I think when Fernando got him outside that was a big key to get him to show his best run.”

Trademark, the 13-1 betting choice, rewarded his backers with mutuels of $28.20, $10.24 and $5.96. First Mission, with Luis Saez up, returned $3.90 and $2.78. Il Miracolo, under Tyler Gaffalione, was another 5 ½ lengths back in third and paid $4.22 to show at odds of 6-1.

Blue Devil finished fourth and was followed by Gasoline, Film Star, Straight Arrow, Giant Game and Stage Raider. Happy American was scratched.

Stage Raider was never involved after he bungled the start and spotted the field several lengths.

Trademark is a son of Upstart out of the Creative Cause mare Creative Trick who was bred in Kentucky by the late Brereton C. Jones.

“He’s had a long campaign this year (nine starts),” Oliver said. “We’ll see how he comes out of the race but the Pegasus (GI) could be an option next year.”

The Clark, named for Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark, was run for the first time in 1875 during the first racing meet at Churchill Downs, which was then known as the Louisville Jockey Club. Like the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), the Clark has been renewed annually without interruption since its first running.

Racing at Churchill Downs continues Saturday with a 12-race program that begins at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern). The 97th running of the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) – a “Prep Season” race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby – and the 80th running of the $400,000 Golden Rod (GII) for fillies are the headliners on the penultimate day of Churchill Downs’ 21-date Fall Meet. Billed as “Stars of Tomorrow II,” each of the 12 races is exclusively for 2-year-olds that may have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next spring’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

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