The 138th running of the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I), a race as old as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) and one of America’s premier events for older horses, heads a schedule of 12 stakes races with total purses of $1.825 million set for the Oct. 28-Nov. 25 Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
Like the Derby and Oaks, the Clark Handicap – a race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles – has been run annually without interruption since Churchill Downs’ first race meet in June of 1875, when the track was known as the Louisville Jockey Club. The venerable race is set for its usual “Black Friday” spot on the Thanksgiving Weekend schedule and will share the Fall Meet spotlight with the track’s pair of popular “Stars of Tomorrow” programs devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds and a special racing “Downs After Dark” night program that will feature both the track’s late-season turf races for 3-year-olds, the $175,000-added Mrs. Revere (GII) for fillies and the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII).
The 21-day meet will open on Sunday, Oct. 28 with its “Stars of Tomorrow I” program that consists solely of races for 2-year-olds on the main track and the Matt Winn Turf Course. The highlights of the opening day program will again be the $150,000-added Pocahontas (GII) for fillies at a mile and its counterpart for males, the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII). “Stars of Tomorrow II” on Saturday, Nov. 24 will feature the 86th running of the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and its counterpart for fillies, the 69th running of the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII). Along with earning the first-place purse, the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club will automatically be nominated to the 2013 Kentucky Derby and the Derby Trial (GIII). The winner of the 68th Golden Rod will earn automatic nominations to the 2013 renewals of the Kentucky Oaks and the $100,000-added Eight Belles (GIII), a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies that will be run on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Adjustments have been made in purses offered for two of the Fall Meet’s most significant races. The $400,000-added purse for the Clark Handicap reflects a reduction of $100,000 from its 2011 level. The purse of $150,000-added for the Falls City Handicap (GII), the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares ages three and up that is the traditional racing centerpiece of the Thanksgiving Holiday program on Thursday, Nov. 22, has been reduced by $25,000 from last year’s renewal.
Each of the dozen stakes races set for Churchill Downs’ 2012 Fall Meet stakes schedule is a graded event. Other highlights include:
- A night of “firsts” for the Mrs. Revere and Commonwealth Turf: the stakes races for 3-year-olds on turf will be run on the same program for the first time, and each will make their respective debut under the Churchill Downs lights. They will be the co-features on the Fall Meet’s lone “Downs After Dark” night racing program on Saturday, Nov. 17. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course and are among the final opportunities for the season’s 3-year-old grass horses to compete in a stakes races restricted to members of their age group.
- The $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII), a race for 3-year-olds and up on turf, that this year will be the featured event on the meet’s closing day on Sunday, Nov. 25. With that scheduling move, each of the four Thanksgiving/Closing Weekend racing programs will, for the first time, feature a stakes event. The Sunday “Closing Day” program was added to the Fall Meet schedule in 2010.
A stakes race will be featured on each of the Churchill Downs’ live racing programs conducted prior to the simulcasts of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships races from Santa Anita on Friday, Nov. 2, and Saturday, Nov. 3. The $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), a one-mile event for 3-year-olds and up, is set for the Friday program and the local highlight on the Saturday card is the $150,000-added Chilukki (GII), a one-mile race for fillies and mares ages 3 and up.