First Mission Continues Preparation for Clark

Nov 09, 2023 Kevin Kerstein

Godolphin’s lightly-raced 3-year-old First Missioncontinues to train at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in the $600,000 Clark Stakes (Grade II) on Friday, Nov. 24, the marquee race of the 134th Fall Meet.

Trained by Brad Cox, First Mission returned from a six-month layoff in an Oct. 14 allowance event at Keeneland, rallying from just off the early pace to defeat Commandperformance by a neck. Six months prior, the son of Street Sense won the Lexington Stakes (GIII), defeating Arabian Lion and Disarm, and quickly became one of the favorites for the Preakness (GI).

About 36 hours from the Preakness, First Mission was scratched from the race with a minor ankle injury. After getting some time off, First Mission returned to Cox’s Churchill Downs base in August and has been regularly working towards his return.

Nominations for the Nov. 24 Clark closed Wednesday. The 1 1/8-mile event is also expected to include fellow Grade III-winning 3-year-old Il Miracolo. Owned by Alexandres LLC and trained by Antonio Sano, Il Miracolo shipped into Churchill Downs 10 days ago to begin his preparations for the race.

The Clark is one of nine stakes events across the final four days of racing at the Fall Meet. The Clark program will also include the $300,000 Mrs. Revere (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles on turf. On Thanksgiving Day, the 12-race program is highlighted by the $400,000 Falls City (GIII) and $300,000 Cardinal (GIII). Saturday, Nov. 25 is Stars of Tomorrow II, which is led by the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and $400,000 Golden Rod (GII). The 12-race card for all 2-year-olds also includes the $225,000 Ed Brown and $225,000 Fern Creek. The Fall Meet will close Sunday, Nov. 26 with the $300,000 Commonwealth Turf (GIII).

The full list of probable entrants will be announced in the coming days.

TURF VETERAN ROCKEMPEROR (IRE) MADE MILD 4-1 FAVORITE IN GRADE III RIVER CITY – Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Wonder Stables, Michael Kisber and Michael Caruso’s accomplished 7-year-old gelding Rockemperor (IRE) was made the slight 4-1 morning line favorite against a full field of turf specialists that entered Saturday’s $300,000 River City (GIII) at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Chad Brown, Rockemperor will be in search of the winner’s circle for the first time since he defeated four rivals in last year’s Bowling Green (GII) at Saratoga. The well-traveled Irish-bred has been victorious in five-career starts including the 2021 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) at Belmont Park. Rockemperor’s 2023 campaign began in May where he finished fourth in the Fort Marcy Stakes (GII) and returned four weeks later to finish ninth in the Manhattan (GI). Two months ago, Brown opted to ship Rockemperor north of the boarder to the Singspiel Stakes (GIII) at Woodbine where he was beat in the final strides by Palazzi.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will unite with Rockemperor for the first time and break from post No. 4.

The River City drew an over-subscribed field of 15 entrants. Twelve made the body of the race and the outside three can draw in if any late scratches occur. Here is the complete field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Cellist (Martin Garcia, Rusty Arnold II, 5-1); F Five (James Graham, Brian Lynch, 12-1); Red Run (Ricardo Santana Jr., Mike Maker, 12-1); Rockemperor (Gaffalione, Brown, 4-1); Kitodan (Alex Achard, Eric Foster, 15-1); Smokin’ T (John Velazquez, Shug McGaughey III, 6-1); Dominican Pioneer (Gerardo Corrales, Wesley Ward, 10-1); Grand Sonata (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher, 6-1); Stitched (Florent Geroux, Greg Foley, 15-1); Injunction (Rafael Bejarano, Carlo Vaccarezza, 15-1); Siege of Boston (Jorge Ruiz, James Toner, 9-2); and Harlan Estate (Joe Ramos, Whit Beckman, 15-1). Also-eligibles: Accredit (Luan Machado, Pavel Matejka, 20-1); Beatbox (Cristian Torres, Cherie DeVaux, 20-1); and Street Ready (Luis Saez, Mike Maker, 15-1).

The 1 1/8-mile River City was carded as Race 10 of 11 with a post time of 5:35 p.m. (all times Eastern). Along with the River City, Saturday’s program also will feature the 18th running of the $300,000 Dream Supreme (Listed). First post is 1 p.m.

MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY ON SATURDAY – In honor of Veterans Day, the Saturday Nov. 11 program at Churchill Downs will double as Military Appreciation Day. Active and retired military members with a valid I.D. will receive free general admission and discounted dining tickets to Millionaires Row or Skye Terrace for only $38 (up to 8 tickets with discount while supplies last). Guests may contact Churchill Downs’ group sales department at (502) 636-4450 or via email at to purchase tickets.

DOWN THE STRETCH – Thursday’s nine-race card got underway at 1 p.m. ET and featured a 20-cent Derby City 6 carryover of $40,057 that spanned Races 4-9. … Rigney Racing’s recent Mother Goose (GII) winner Xigera returned to the Churchill Downs work tab on Thursday with a swift half-mile move in :47.80. The Phil Bauer trainee is possible to face older horses in the $400,000 Falls City (GIII) on Nov. 23. … Racing on the Matt Winn Turf Course is scheduled to be contested in Lane 3, 24 feet from the inside rail on Thursday-Friday. Saturday and Sunday’s cards are scheduled in Lane 1. … On Saturday, Nov. 18 Norton Healthcarewill hold their second Athlete Wellness and Performance educational meeting with jockeys and their families. The meeting will be held starting at 11:30 a.m. in the Churchill Downs Backside Recreation Center.

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