Rising Stars Successful Dan, Apart Favored in 136th Running of Grade I Clark Handicap

Nov 23, 2010 Gary Yunt

A year ago, a lightly raced 3-year-old named Blame used a victory in the Fayette (Grade II) at Keeneland as a springboard to victory in his subsequent start in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare, then a Grade II event and the highlight of the 2009 Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.

On Friday, history could repeat itself as Morton Fink’s Successful Dan, winner of this year’s running of the Fayette, is set to carry 121 pounds and concede from 3-6 pounds to 10 rivals as the favorite in the 136th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap, a prestigious race for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track that has been restored to Grade I status by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

The Clark will go as the 11th event on a 12-race “Black Friday” holiday racing program that begins at 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern).  Like the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the Kentucky Oaks (GI), the Clark has been run each year without interruption since it was introduced in the first race meeting at Churchill Downs, then known as the Louisville Jockey Club, in 1875.  Post time for the Clark is 5:42 p.m.

After his major introduction to the nation’s racing fans in last year’s Clark, Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame race twice at Churchill Downs in 2010.  The Al Stall Jr. trained colt won the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) in June, then returned in November to win a showdown for the ages over previously unbeaten Zenyatta in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).

Like Blame, Successful Dan will be making his eighth career start in the Clark. Trained by Lexington-based Charles Lopresti, Successful Dan is undefeated at Churchill Downs having won an allowance race in May 2009 and following that up with a victory over future Grade I winner Warrior’s Reward in the Northern Dancer (GIII) the following month.

Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for the two Churchill Downs victories and four of the 4-year-old gelding’s five career wins, has Friday’s mount on Successful Dan, who will break from post three.  Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed him as the 5-2 morning line favorite.

Another Clark starter who is following even closer in Blame’s footsteps is his Stall-trained stablemate Apart. Owned and bred by Dilschneider, Apart will be making his eighth career start in the Clark and, like Blame, is ridden by Garrett Gomez and based at Keeneland.

The 3-year-old Apart, the 7-2 second choice in Battaglia’s Clark Handicap morning line, brings a three-race win streak into Friday’s race, highlighted by a September victory in the Super Derby (GII) at Louisiana Downs and a three-quarter length win over older rivals in the Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

Gomez, who was aboard for the Ack Ack win, returns to the saddle aboard Apart, who will carry 118 pounds and break from post position two.

Six other graded stakes winners on dirt are in the field, topped by the 9-year-old veteran Brass Hat, who won the 2006 Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park for one of his six graded stakes victories. Trained by Buff Bradley for his father Fred, Brass Hat ran second to A.P. Arrow in the 2007 Clark.  The homebred Prized gelding brings a record of 10-8-5 in 39 career races and earnings of $2,167,921 into Friday’s race.  Brass Hat’s latest win came in his most recent start, when he rallied from last in a field of 12 to take the $100,000 Sycamore (GIII) at 1 ½ miles on turf at Keeneland.

Brass Hat (15-1) will carry 116 pounds and be ridden by Tony Farina as he tries to join the ranks of such veteran stars as John Henry, The Tin Man, John’s Call and Super Diamond in winning a Grade I stakes race at the advanced racing age of nine.  Brass Hat will break from post position six. Farina will ride Brass Hat as regular jockey Calvin Borel continues his recovery from surgery to repair a broken jaw suffered in a fall last weekend at Lousiana’s Delta Downs.

The other graded stakes winners on dirt in the field are Regal Ransom, Redding Colliery, Demarcation, Duke of Mischief and Win Willy. Stately Victor, who finished eighth in this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) over Polytrack at Keeneland in April. Dubious Miss won the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland, also in April.

Godolphin Racing’s Regal Ransom is the 9-2 third choice in Battaglia’s morning line.  The son of Distorted Humor, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, counts the 2009 UAE Derby (GII) at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba and the Super Derby (GII) among his four career wins, with the latter coming at the expense of runner-up Blame.  But Regal Ransom finished a distant sixth to Tizway as the even-money favorite in the Kelso (GII) at Belmont Park in his most recent start.  Freddie Lenclud will ride at 116 pounds.

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Redding Colliery won the recent Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) by three-quarters of a length over Clark rival Giant Oak, who finished fourth to Blame both in last year’s Clark and the 2010 Stephen Foster.  Demarcation won last year’s Ack Ack and was second to Apart in this year’s renewal for Louisville-based trainer Paul McGee.  Duke of Mischief edged Win Willy in this year’s Oaklawn Handicap (GII), while the latter won last year’s Rebel (GIII) at Oaklawn.

The field for the Clark Handicap, from the rail out (with rider, weight and morning line odds), is as follows: Dubious Miss (Robby Albarado, 116 pounds, 15-1), Apart (Gomez, 118, 7-2), Successful Dan (Leparoux, 121, 5-2), Giant Oak (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 15-1), Redding Colliery (Anna Napravnik, 117, 10-1), Brass Hat (Farina, 116, 15-1), Stately Victor (Victor Lebron, 116, 10-1), Win Willy (Cliff Berry, 116, 10-1), Regal Ransom (Freddie Lenclud, 116, 9-2), Demarcation (Kent Desormeaux, 116, 12-1) and Duke of Mischief (Eibar Coa, 116, 12-1).

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