No Dortmund but Hoppertunity makes title defense against deep Clark field
Bob Baffert elected not to ship multiple Grade 1 winner Dortmund for Friday’s $500,000 Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs due to a minor quarter-crack, but the Hall of Fame trainer will still be represented by the 2014 winner, Hoppertunity. The 4-year-old horse heads a strong field of nine entered in the 1 1/8-mile race.
Runner-up in the September 26 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita, Hoppertunity exits a fast-closing second to fellow Clark entrant Race Day in the October 30 Fayette Stakes (G2) on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard at Keeneland. Hoppertunity recorded a half-length decision as the 2-1 favorite in last year’s Clark and Martin Garcia will regain the mount on the bay son of Any Given Saturday.
Race Day, who earned his first victory in the Fayette since taking the Oaklawn H. (G2) in mid-April, will provide formidable opposition along with stablemate Protonico. Both are trained by Todd Pletcher. Protonico posted a non-threatening fifth most recently in the Fayette but showed an affinity for Churchill last spring when capturing the Alysheba (G2), defeating subsequent Grade 1 winners Honor Code and Noble Bird on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
John Velazquez will be back aboard Race Day and Julien Leparoux picks up the call on Protonico.
Keen Ice is another top contender. A maiden winner last year under the Twin Spires, the Dale Romans-trained sophomore colt was the only horse to beat American Pharoah during a spectacular 2015 season when capturing the Travers (G1) in late August. The late-running son of Curlin returned from a nine-week freshening with a decent fourth in the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and is eligible to move forward significantly from the tightener. Leading local jockey Corey Lanerie takes over the reins.
Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Effinex, who defeated Tonalist in the Suburban (G2) before recording a fourth in the Woodward (G1) and a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite by track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. Mike Smith, who picked up the mount last time, will stick with 4-year-old.
Completing the line-up is the multiple Grade 2-winning Frivolous, who exits a rallying fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and is cross-entered to Thursday’s Falls City (G2) for fillies and mares; stakes victor Mr. Z, sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1); Oklahoma Derby (G2) scorer Shotgun Kowboy, who will be tested for class with a three-race win skein in tow; and enormous longshot Looks to Spare.
Jefferson Cup (G3) winner Saham, runner-up in the Hawthorne Derby (G3) last out, heads a field of 13 in the Commonwealth Turf and recent allowance heroine House of Sole is the one to beat among nine rivals in the Dream Supreme.
Hoppertunity (orange silks) winning the 2014 Clark courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography