In Focus: Henry S. Clark Stakes

by | Apr 22, 2016 | Breaking, Handicapping, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing, Top Stories

Talk Show Man (inside) rallied late to post a narrow win in last year’s Henry S. Clark Stakes at Pimlico. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Frank Vespe

ANALYSIS

  1. Cage Fighter (3-1) — Chuck Lawrence trainee enjoyed considerable success in ’15, winning the PTHA President’s Cup at Parx and placing in two graded events, including the G2 Dixie at Pimlico, but finished up on a sour note with a last-place showing (at 150-1) in the Breeders’ Cup Turf… Closing Argument gelding makes his ’16 debut here with Nik Juarez in the irons… Shows four works over the all-weather strip at Fair Hill in preparation for this and has shown the ability to fire fresh before, winning his ’15 season debut… Trainer Lawrence’s last two runners making their season debuts both won on the Laurel lawn, including the impressive Perfect Title April 10… Tactical sort has the right style to work out a trip.
  2.  Call First (15-1) — Good news: this Gina Perri trainee owns four wins on the lawn and has finished in the money seven of eight on the green… Bad news: the 8-year-old gelding’s career-best Beyer, 89, won’t get it done here… This guy found the fountain of youth on the grass last season, running one-two-three in four straight with the best efforts of his career… Perri snagged him for the princely sum of $4,000 in January ’14, and that’s about what he’s worth on the main track… In his last turf try, in a $25,000 starter allowance, he was beaten just a length, and winner Roman Approval has gone on to place in two graded events this year… Julio Hernandez will pilot this speedy fellow, who may try to take ’em all the way.
  3. Dynamic Strike (20-1) — Here’s a horse with a strange history: six-year-old Smart Strike gelding has two three-race win streaks in his career — and no other wins… Unplaced in three career turf tries, none since ’13, though he does have some pretty good efforts and a stakes win on the synthetic… In the end, it’s hard to see this Billy Campbell trainee being in the mix if this race stays on grass.  Angel Cruz has the call.
  4. Mister Brightside (6-1) — Lord Shanakill gelding has made the rounds: bred in Britain, brought over to Southern Cal, where he ran second in the G2 Twilight Derby to the very good Om, now switched to this coast and the barn of Niall Saville… Saville’s 5-for-30 with horses making their first start in his barn, and this one arrives with the ultimate equipment change: gelding… Let’s be pretty clear here: this guy has talent; he’s had worlds of trouble in his US starts, most notably in his troubled Hollywood Derby outing when beaten less than five lengths, and even in that last, when finishing a solidly beaten sixth, he spent half the first turn bottled up… He has something of a tendency to be keen in the early going, too, but if Forest Boyce in the irons can get him to settle and work out a clean trip, he’s good enough to win here and will surely appreciate the drop from graded company.
  5. Phlash Phelps (10-1) — Can’t own a better record than the perfect four-for-four ledger this Great Notion gelding crafted last year, and he’s won three of four starts on the green stuff, two in stakes company… This’ll be a stern class test for the five-year-old whose two stakes wins came against state-bred/-sired rivals… Bringing runners off six-month layoffs isn’t a great angle for trainer Rodney Jenkins (15% last five years versus 21% overall win rate), but this runner has fired fresh before, breaking his maiden in his first ’15 start… This guy’s winless dam has turned out to be a terrific broodmare, having produced 12-time winners Action Andy ($673k earnings) and Saintly Love ($199k)… Shows a half-dozen works in preparation and has regular pilot Victor Carrasco aboard.
  6. Golden Glint (15-1) — Has a win from four starts on the lawn and five from 21 overall… Mary Eppler claim-back last out when he was up the track as the chalk in a $32k optional claiming event… Eppler scores about 14% first off the claim (but 0-for-3 moving horses into stakes off the claim)… No rider’s named, and no one’d be surprised to see this runner scratch if the race remains on the green stuff.
  7. Special Envoy (8-1) — Stroll gelding was third in this event a year ago near the start of a season in which he was in the money six of seven with three wins… This is a consistent hard-hitter who’ll have an advantage over several of these in that he’s already run three times, defeating allowance foes (including Golden Sabre) last out… Had a little bit of early difficulty in the G3 Tampa Bay, then later moved in tandem with the winner on the far turn but couldn’t keep the pace in the lane… Runner-up Take the Stand scored in G2 company next out… Just missed in the G3 Cliffhanger last year and was second to Rose Brier in the Bert Allen… Looks to be training well and gets regular rider Daniel Centeno, and there’s every reason to expect a good effort here.
  8. Golden Sabre (12-1) — What to make of that last one? Normally hard-hitting Medaglia d’Oro gelding didn’t run a step in a TAM allowance won by Special Envoy — he was last at every call — in his first start of ’16… He’ll be making his first start for trainer Graham Motion, who says that all he’s done to date are “maintenance works”… The back class is there, and a return to form wouldn’t be a shock: he’s G2-placed on the turf and a G3 winner on synthetic, and those credentials place him as a top contender in here on good form… Alex Cintron will ride, and he and Motion have had good success in the last year (23%)… He can win here, but you’ll want to get fair value to play him.
  9. Rose Brier (4-1) — Virginia-bred Mizzen Mast gelding has made his two prior visits to Laurel Park winning ones, taking the last two editions of the Bert Allen Stakes, but the water here figures quite a bit deeper… 11-time winner made his season bow at GP a winning one against starter foes, though none of three to run back has run well… Trainer Jane Cibelli has won four of 13 at the strip in the last five years… Trevor McCarthy has the mount: he and Rose Brier have a record of 5-4-0-0 together, including the two Bert Allen wins… Only one horse of 22 starters has won going a mile on the lawn from outside the seven-hole.
  10. Edge of Reality (15-1) — The good news is that this Lawyer Ron gelding is a G3 winner in a field where that’s a solid credential; the bad news is that that was back in ’13, and on the dirt… Just one for seven on the turf, but that one — a win in the ’14 Alphabet Soup at Parx — was nothing to sneeze at; beaten rivals included hard-hitting Roadhog and Page McKenney… Also sports some credible efforts in graded company… Graham Motion trainee’s last three since winning the Turning for Home range between so-so and terrible, and he’ll need a form reversal here… One of two to run back from last-out allowance show effort has won next out… Brian Pedroza will ride.
  11. Blacktype (5-1) — Say this for trainer Christophe Clement: when he runs horses, they’re ready to fire… Talented French-bred Dunkerque gelding hasn’t raced since last July — but Clement wins 18 percent off similar layoffs… Nothing wrong with that last try against allowance foes, either: winner Mr. Speaker is a multiple graded winner, and two of five to run back have won… Jockey Chris Decarlo is scheduled to ride: he’s ridden just one race for Clement in the last five years… This runner has kept awfully good company since coming over to the US in late ’14 and rates a solid chance on best.

HENRY S. CLARK STAKES DETAILS

  • Race 10, 5:53 p.m. EDT
    • 3yo and up
    • 1 mile, turf, $75,000 purse
    • 16th running of a race named for the dean of Maryland trainers, who remained an active trainer until his passing, at age 95, in 1999.  The Hall of Famer trained, among many others, the great fillies Obeah, Endine, and Tempted.
    • Inaugurated in 2001, the Clark, which has always previously been contested at Pimlico, has often served as a sprinboard to the Grade 2 Dixie on Preakness day, most notably in 2004 when Mr. O’Brien became the only horse to take both the Clark and the Dixie in the same year.
    • 2015 winner: Talk Show Man
    • Stakes record: Private Slip, 1:33 4/5, 2001

THE PICKS

  1. Mr. Brightside (6-1) — Gelding, a trainer switch, and the drop out of graded company do the trick for a runner who’s shown plenty of talent.
  2. Rose Brier (4-1) — Last month’s win says this seven-year-old is ready for another productive season, and the Rose Brier-McCarthy combo has been lethal.
  3. Cage Fighter (3-1) — Suspect he’ll run well but maybe be an inch short in season debut; look for another productive season from a 6yo who’s made just 17 career starts.
  4. Blacktype (5-1) — You have to respect Clement wherever he shows up, and this guy has certainly seen some rugged rivals.