G2 WINNER PIXELATE HEADS HENRY S. CLARK STAKES
Initially split between running Grade 2 winner Pixelate and fellow 4-year-old stakes winner Doc Boy, trainer Michael Stidham opted to enter both as part of a solid field of 14 for Saturday’s $100,000 Henry S. Clark at Pimlico Race Course.
The 21st running of the Clark for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles is one of three turf stakes on an 11-race Spring Stakes Spectacular program featuring six stakes worth $650,000 in purses headlined by the $125,000 Federico Tesio, a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds to the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 15, and the $125,000 Weber City Miss, a ‘Win and In’ event for 3-year-old fillies to the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 14.
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Joining the Clark on the grass Saturday are Maryland’s first turf race of the 2021 season, the $100,000 Dahlia for fillies and mares 3 and up, also at 1 1/16 miles, and the $100,000 King T. Leatherbury for 3-year-olds and up sprinting five furlongs.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Goldophin’s homebred Pixelate has run in 13 consecutive stakes, five of them graded, winning three including the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby (G2) last September. He capped 2020 by capturing the one-mile Woodchopper Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds, and began 2021 running fifth by three lengths at odds of 52-1 in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
“Pixelate has been running against some pretty tough company, Grade 1s and Grade 2s his last few, and we’re looking for a spot that hopefully we have a shot at winning. This looks like a spot that we should have a decent chance,” Stidham said. “He’s a very honest type and he tries hard every time.”
In his most recent outing, Pixelate ran fourth to Pegasus Turf winner Colonel Liam following a wide trip in the 1 1/8-mile Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) March 20 at Fair Grounds. Making his Pimlico debut, he has a record of 4-5-3 from 16 lifetime starts at 10 different tracks with purse earnings of $413,350. He is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
“He’s been very competitive from a mile up to a mile and a quarter, so I think this distance should suit him fine,” Stidham said. “He’s just one of those horses that’s been very sound. He’s been one that every time we enter him up he goes out there and tries really hard no matter where we are. He’s just one of those kinds of horses that you’d like to have in your barn.”
Stallionaire Enterprises’ Doc Boy (15-1) has yet to race this year, finishing fifth by 2 ½ lengths to his stablemate in the Woodchopper last time out. He, too, has had a steady diet of stakes since breaking his maiden in July 2019 at Laurel, winning the Kitten’s Joy at Colonial Downs and running third in the Laurel Futurity that summer.
Doc Boy successfully opened his 2020 campaign off a five-month layoff in one-mile Columbia at Tampa Bay Downs. He finished off the board in two subsequent starts six months apart prior to the Woodchopper.
“Doc Boy has been kind of up and down. He’s run some really good races and then in other spots he hasn’t run as well,” Stidham said. “He’s been a little bit of a more difficult horse to place, and we’re hoping that we’ve got him back on top of his game. He hasn’t been quite as successful as Pixelate in his races, although he is a stakes winner, but we’re looking to get him back running well again.”
Ninety One Assault (8-1), co-owned by trainer Tom Morley and Paul Braverman, was part of a four-horse photo behind Colonel Liam and runner-up Two Emmys in the Muniz, finishing fifth, just a neck behind Pixelate. The connections are seeking the first open stakes victory for the 8-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, a three-time winner against fellow Louisiana-breds including the 2019 and 2020 Louisiana Champions Day Turf.
“He ran probably the best race of his entire career in the Muniz, getting beat [5 ½] lengths to the best turf horse in North America,” Morley said. “He seems to be doing really, really well. This will be his final run the first part of this year before he has his summer holiday to get ready for the Louisiana turf season. The horse is in super shape and I’m really looking forward to running him.”
Ninety One Assault ran second to multiple graded-stakes winner Doctor Mounty in last year’s Clark, when it was held at Laurel Park. This year’s Spring Stakes Spectacular was moved to Pimlico due to ongoing evaluation and renovation of Laurel’s main track.
“I was really looking forward to running him at Laurel because he’s run very well over that turf course, but we’ll have to see how he’ll handle Pimlico now,” Morley said. “Before I ran him in the Clark I thought that his work was better than I’d ever seen him work and it’s very rare that they maintain their form at the level he has for as long as he has, but it seems like he might be even a little bit better this year. He’s a very big horse and he’s done us proud over the years.”
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will attempt to defend his Clark victory with Phipps Stable homebred Dreams of Tomorrow (12-1). The 4-year-old son of champion dirt sprinter Speightstown removes blinkers for his fourth straight start on the grass, where he broke his maiden Dec. 3 at Aqueduct, was beaten a neck in a Gulfstream Park optional claiming allowance Feb. 20 and most recently was third after setting the pace in a 1 1/16-mile allowance April 3 at the Big A, a neck out of second.
Other horses bringing graded credentials to the Clark include 2019 Kent (G3) winner Eons (3-1); Corelli (5-1), third in the 2020 United Nations (G1); Dinar (20-1), fourth by less than two lengths in the 2020 Ack Ack (G3); and Ballagh Rocks (10-1), second in the 2018 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1).
Completing the field are Papal Law, a winner of two straight but unraced since last August; Galerio, third in three consecutive dirt stakes at Laurel yet to run on turf; Chilly in Charge, stakes-placed on dirt and turf; and stakes-placed Dixie Drawl, winless in three career grass attempts. Tybalt and Deal Driven are entered for main track only.