11/20/2012 4:03PM

Churchill Downs: Neck 'n Neck out of Clark with ankle injury


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With one late-blooming 3-year-old out of the Clark Handicap, one of his familiar rivals will be looking to carry on.

Neck ’n Neck, winner of the Indiana Derby and Ack Ack Handicap in his last two starts, was declared Tuesday morning from the Grade 1 Clark after suffering a sesamoid injury to his left front ankle, apparently in a Sunday workout at Churchill Downs, said trainer Ian Wilkes. Surgical repairs on the Flower Alley colt were scheduled for Wednesday at the Woodford Equine Hospital in Versailles, Ky.

“He cooled out fine, but then when we were doing up his bandages, he went lame,” said Wilkes. “That’s racing, unfortunately. There are questions whether he can return. He’ll be out at least six months, and if he’s okay I’m sure we’d give it a shot.”

Neck ’n Neck would have carried 119 pounds, including jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., as one of the favorites for the $400,000 Clark, to be run Friday. Hernandez and Wilkes teamed to win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic with Fort Larned on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

Meanwhile, Bourbon Courage, a five-length winner of the Super Derby in September and a close second to Neck ’n Neck in the Oct. 6 Indiana Derby, was one of four 3-year-olds, entered Tuesday in the 1 1/8-mile Clark. Shackleford, the 4-year-old standout making his final career start, is the 120-pound starting highweight in a field of 10. The other 3-year-olds entered were Take Charge Indy, winner of the Florida Derby in March, and longshots Fast Falcon and Stealcase, with Hernandez picking up the mount on the latter.

Bourbon Courage has been thriving in the weeks leading up to the Clark.

“We were kind of wishing the race was last week,” said trainer Kellyn Gorder.

“He is so ready.”

Gorder said he bypassed the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Bourbon Courage “after it looked like it was coming up a tough spot.”

“We’re fine with that because we were able to give him a little time after the Indiana Derby, and he’s really responded,” Gorder said. “He’s put together four great works since that race. Let’s just say this is our Breeders’ Cup.”

Blame, in 2009, was the last 3-year-old to win the Clark. Wise Dan was the winner last year.

From the rail, with weights and jockeys, this is the field for the 138th Clark, which goes as the 11th of 12 Friday races:

Pool Play, 118, Corey Lanerie; Eyeoftheleopard, 115, Jon Court; Shackleford, 120, Jesus Castanon; Bourbon Courage, 117, Leandro Goncalves; Cease, 117, Miguel Mena; Take Charge Indy, 117, Calvin Borel; Fast Falcon, 113, Shaun Bridgmohan; Stealcase, 115, Hernandez; Mission Impazible, 115, Javier Castellano; and Lunar Victory, 116, Junior Alvarado.

The Friday after Thanksgiving always draws well, with an ontrack crowd of 20,000 likely to be on hand. The Louisville weather has been terrific all week, although a cold front and highs in the low 50’s were expected to move in by Friday.