W.S. Farish’s multiple Grade I winner Code of Honor will take on 13 rivals including graded stakes winners By My Standards, Mr Freeze and Owendale in Friday’s 146th renewal of the $500,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – the marquee race of the Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/8-mile Clark will go as Race 10 of 11 with a post time of 5:27 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post is 1 p.m.
Code of Honor, a 4-year-old son of Noble Mission (GB), achieved Grade I glory in last year’s $1.25 million Travers and $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI). Trainer Shug McGaughey III had his sights set on a strong 2020 campaign but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he was forced to alter the colt’s plans.
“He’s just been a victim of circumstances with the COVID situation,” McGaughey said. “I would’ve liked him to run him in the Westchester which would’ve been the start of the Belmont Meet in the spring. I would’ve spaced the races out that way. That didn’t’ work out so we couldn’t run until June 6 in the Westchester. He won that and I really had in my mind I wasn’t going to run him back until the Whitney. He’s run a lot better with his races spaced.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Code of Honor from post position No. 3.
“Johnny told me after the Met that this horse definitely wants two turns,” McGaughey said. “His race in the Kelso against Complexity, who was the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, was a really good race. We had to change riders on him that day. Javier (Castellano) is obviously a great rider but may not have known him as well as Johnny did. All in all, it was sort of just a messed up year. Now he’s gotten his space and he’s run good over this Churchill track.”
Code of Honor was one of the top 3-year-old prospects in 2019 following his victory in the $400,000 Florida Derby (GII) at Gulfstream Park. He placed second in the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) prior to his Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup victories.
Among the other top older horses that entered the race is Allied Racing Stable’s $400,000 Alysheba (GII) winner By My Standards. Trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Gabriel Saez, By My Standards finished eighth in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), his only off the board finish through seven starts in 2020.
“He loves this track at Churchill Downs so I think he’ll do a lot better getting back here,” Saez said. “We didn’t get the best of trips in the Breeders’ Cup and he didn’t like the surface that day. He worked really well (on Friday). He just has such a big stride and covers a lot of ground.”
By My Standards sports a stout overall record of 13-6-4-1 with earnings of $1,824,430. He drew post 12 for Friday’s Clark.
Also entered is Rupp Racing’s three-time Grade III winner Owendale. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale finished second behind By My Standards in the Alysheba. The 4-year-old son of Into Mischief began his 2020 campaign with a victory at Churchill Downs in the $100,000 Blame Stakes. Owendale enters the Clark following a fifth-place effort in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Keeneland.
“In the Alysheba there was no pace,” Cox said. “He doesn’t really like kickback so we have to make sure he gets out in the clear. I think his efforts this year have put him in contention with some of the older horses in this handicap division.”
Owendale was the runner-up finisher behind Tom’s d’Etat in last year’s Clark. Florent Geroux has the call on Owendale from post 9.
Another top older horse that entered the Clark is Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s four-time graded stakes winner Mr Freeze. Trained by Dale Romans, Mr Freeze scored a narrow victory in last month’s $200,000 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland. The six-time winner finished third in last year’s Clark under jockey Robby Albarado. Following that race he finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (GI), beaten 4 ½ lengths by Mucho Gusto.
Jockey David Cohen will ride Mr Freeze in the Clark from post 7.
Finishing just a neck behind Mr Freeze in the Fayette was Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton and Peter Leidel’s Aurelius Maximus. The 4-year-old colt was transferred from trainer Chad Brown to Steve Asmussen at the end of 2019 and immediately found success reeling off consecutive allowance victories.
Aurelius Maximus is one of two horses entered in the Clark for Asmussen. The other is Ed and Susie Orr’s four-time winner Silver Prospector. The 3-year-old son of Declaration of War rallied to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance event on Oct. 30 at Churchill Downs. Earlier in his career, the gray colt was on the Kentucky Derby trail with victories in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and $750,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII).
Ricardo Santana Jr. has the call on Aurelius Maximus from post 5 while Gerardo Corrales picks up the call on Silver Prospector from post 14.
Invading from South Florida for the Clark is Top Racing, Global Thoroughbred and GDS Stable’s multiple graded stakes placed Bodexpress. The 14th place finisher in the 2019 Kentucky Derby arrived at Churchill Downs on Friday with trainer Gustavo Delgado’s son Gustavo Jr. The 4-year-old son of Bodemeister enters the Clark following a dominating 11 ¼-length allowance score at Gulfstream Park West in mid-October.
Rafael Bejarano has the mount on Bodexpress and will break from post 8.
Rounding out the Clark field is Bourbon Lane Stable’s stakes winner Bourbon Calling; Albaugh Family Stable and Helen K Groves Revocable Trust’s improving 4-year-old colt Coastal Defense; Lucky Seven Stable’s five-time winner Crafty Daddy; Wachtel Stable, George Kerr, and Gary Barber’s Grade III winner Multiplier; Susan and Jim Hill’s recent allowance winner Phantom Currency; Imperial Racing’s $2.5 million UAE Derby (GII) winner Plus Que Parfait; and Charles Fipke’s Fayette third-place finisher Title Ready. Bonne Chance Farm and Stud R D I’s recent turf allowance winner In Love (BRZ) is on the also-eligible list with the lowest earnings in the field.
In total, the Clark field has accumulated 58 wins with earnings of more than $12.4 million.
The complete field from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Crafty Daddy (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek); Title Ready (Corey Lanerie, Dallas Stewart); Code of Honor (Velazquez, McGaughey); Multiplier (Tyler Gaffalione, Peter Miller); Aurelius Maximus (Santana, Asmussen); Plus Que Parfait (Robby Albarado, Brendan Walsh); Mr Freeze (Cohen, Romans); Bodexpress (Bejarano, Delgado); Owendale (Geroux, Cox); Bourbon Calling (Julien Leparoux, Ian Wilkes); Coastal Defense (Joe Talamo, Romans); By My Standards (Saez, Calhoun); Phantom Currency (Declan Cannon, Brian Lynch); and Silver Prospector (Corrales, Asmussen). Also-Eligible: In Love (Albarado, Paulo Lobo).