11/22/2011 3:02PM

Churchill Downs: Flat Out chases Eclipse Award in Clark Handicap

Tom Keyser
Flat Out is the 123-pound highweight for Friday's Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The locals love coming out to Churchill Downs on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and not just to escape from the in-laws. The racing happens to be terrific, too.

Exhibit A: Yet another terrific renewal of the $500,000 Clark Handicap, a Grade 1 race that carries possible Eclipse Award implications and one that drew another extraordinarily deep field of 3-year-olds and up. Flat Out, in contention for the older-horse championship for 2011, is the 123-pound highweight and likely favorite in a field of 13, while Ruler On Ice and Prayer for Relief also could boost their chances for top 3-year-old by defeating their elders in such a tough event.

Flat Out, with Alex Solis to ride, was assigned post 6 in the 1 1/8-mile Clark and will be spotting his opposition 3 to 11 pounds. Trained by Scooter Dickey, Flat Out won the Grade 2 Suburban and the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and was most recently fifth as the lukewarm favorite in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill.

Wise Dan (post 11, John Velazquez) is next on the weights list at 120 pounds and figures to be next in the wagering, too, when coming off a series of big efforts, including wins in the Firecracker at Churchill, the Presque Isle Downs Mile, and the Fayette at Keeneland from his last four starts.

Charlie Lopresti, who trains 4-year-old Wise Dan for owner-breeder Morton Fink, said he had reservations about the distance until the gelding romped by four lengths in the Oct. 29 Fayette, also run at 1 1/8 miles.

“He’s shown us he can go that far,” he said.

Lopresti sent out the first-place finisher in the Clark last year in Successful Dan, only to see the gelding disqualified to third for interference. Giant Oak was awarded the victory.

From the rail, this is the Clark field: Ruler On Ice, Alma d’Oro, Demarcation, Stately Victor, Mission Impazible, Flat Out, Pleasant Prince, Headache, Mister Marti Gras, Will’s Wildcat, Wise Dan, Prayer for Relief, and General Quarters.

First post Friday for a 12-race program is 12:40 p.m. Eastern, with the later races, including the Clark (race 11, post 5:42), to be run under the lights. The Clark card perennially draws one of the biggest non-Derby crowds of the year to Churchill. Three allowances (races 8, 9, 10) lead into the Clark.

The 21-day Churchill fall meet winds to an end with a Stars of Tomorrow card on Saturday and the finale on Sunday.