11/21/2006 12:00AM

Bright One steps up, with a chance

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The odds of a 3-year-old winning the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Friday are considerably better than the odds Bright One already has overcome.

As a son of the young sire Dance Brightly, out of a mare named Twinkle whose race record and pedigree were undistinguished, Bright One clearly was not bred to be winning high-dollar stakes nor posing serious challenges in the upper echelon of the North American handicap division. Nonetheless, the colt with the modest bloodlines will be in the lineup as a viable contender Friday when the $500,000 Clark is run for the 132nd time at Churchill Downs.

"This horse hasn't changed my life," said Mike Bruder, a lifelong Evansville, Ind., resident and vending machine businessman who bred and co-owns Bright One. "But he has made it easier."

Bright One was one of 12 3-year-olds and up entered Tuesday for the Clark, the 1 1/8-mile race that serves as the highlight of the post-Breeders' Cup segment of the 2006 fall meet. The colt will attempt to become the second straight 3-year-old to win the Clark, following Magna Graduate last year.

In fact, five of the last 16 Clark winners were 3-year-olds, and Bruder believes Bright One has earned a shot at enhancing that respectable percentage. After finishing second in his career debut in late May, Bright One reeled off three straight victories, all of them earning triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, culminating with a 5 3/4-length triumph in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 6.

After that, Bruder and trainer Dale Romans started thinking the sky was the limit, but a minor illness followed by a resounding defeat in the Oct. 7 Indiana Derby led the colt off the star-chasing path and into a relatively unimportant Churchill allowance on Nov. 2. He won easily, and now he is leaping back into top-flight competition - facing the likes of Premium Tap, Wanderin Boy, and Master Command in the Clark.

"We needed to see that he was back on track after the fiasco in Indiana," said Bruder, who actually runs the colt in the name of his wife, Carolyn Sue, who shares ownership with Delmar Daubs. "Ever since then we've had our eye on the Clark."

Bright One has earned $575,074 from just six starts and already is bearing down on the numbers posted by MoB Sea - to date, the most accomplished horse Bruder has owned in 30 years in the business. MoB Sea, a 7-year-old who has churned out $598,426 from 48 starts, also is entered in the Clark as a longshot.

"It's been pretty thrilling to have a horse as good as Bright One," said Bruder, 62. "You love it when you've got one for $5,000 and he goes out there and wins, so when you've got one of this caliber, it's really something."

Premium Tap to carry 122

There certainly is no shortage of rugged competition for Bright One in the Clark. Premium Tap, the 122-pound highweight who was third behind Invasor and Bernardini in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Classic, drew well when assigned post 4. Likewise for Wanderin Boy (119), the Nick Zito-trained speedster who figures to set or force the pace. He will break from post 3, just outside of Bright One. For Master Command (120), however, the early-race strategy might be a little trickier, since he drew the far outside post.

Master Command is trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by John Velazquez, the same team that won the Clark last year with Magna Graduate. Master Command, a 4-year-old colt by A.P. Indy, earned an eye-popping 114 Beyer in winning his last start, the Oct. 13 Meadowlands BC Handicap.

"He's always indicated to us that he's a nice horse," said Pletcher. "Like a lot of the A.P. Indys, he seems to get better as he gets older. But that was clearly the best race he's run to date."

From the rail out, the Clark lineup is: Super Frolic, Bright One, Wanderin Boy, Premium Tap, It's No Joke, A.P. Arrow, Wiggins, Andromeda's Hero, Wild Desert, Irene's Mon, M B Sea, and Master Command.

Magna Graduate, meanwhile, was withheld from the Clark by Pletcher, who said the colt will run instead Dec. 9 in the Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct.

A crowd of nearly 20,000 is expected here Friday.

Tiz Wonderful heads KJC Stakes

Tiz Wonderful, the unbeaten colt who will be favored in one of the closing-day features, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, breezed an easy half-mile Tuesday in 50 seconds to prepare for his third career start.

Tiz Wonderful, trained by Scott Blasi, is one of at least six 2-year-olds expected for the Grade 2 KJC Stakes, which will share the Saturday spotlight with the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes. Both races carry $200,000 purses and are run at 1 1/16 miles. Entries for both were to be drawn Wednesday.

The rest of the KJC lineup is expected to be Any Given Saturday, Going Ballistic, Starbase, U D Ghetto, and What a Tale. For the Golden Rod, Churchill officials were expecting Change Up, Cohiba Miss, Lady Corredor, Lady Joanne, Littlebitabling, Pro Pink, and Wellofaprize.