11/21/2012 3:36PM

Churchill Downs: Pool Play, Mission Impazible among Clark sleepers

Barbara D. Livingston
Pool Play may rebound from from an off-the-board Breeders' Cup performance in the Clark Handicap. Pool Play won the Grade 1 Foster over the Churchill track in 2011.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – If there are no cinches in horse racing, that might be doubly true for the Clark Handicap. The Churchill Downs fall showcase has made a tradition of large and wide-open fields in recent years, and the 138th running Friday is no exception.

Shackleford is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Clark, and perhaps deservedly so, but there is no shortage of talent in against him. Most of the opposing nine have recorded Beyer Speed Figures in the 100 range while competing at lofty levels, and fans should not be surprised with any number of end-game scenarios after the sun goes down Friday.

A victory by Pool Play, exiting the Breeders’ Cup Classic, would be a prime example. Mark Casse said he believes the 7-year-old gelding should be forgiven a 17-length drubbing in that Santa Anita race and granted a big chance when wheeling back in 20 days.

“Pool Play loves Churchill,” said Casse. “He’s coming back a little quick, but I think he just kind of went around the track in California. This race is hard to pass up when we know he likes it here.”

Another viable play is Mission Impazible, a gray 5-year-old who has tantalized his connections by finishing a close second in three Grade 1 races without winning any of them. New York standout Javier Castellano sees fit to travel here to keep the mount on Mission Impazible, a horse he has ridden in 9 of his last 10 races.

“He’s been a great, consistent, durable horse for us,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, the future Hall of Famer who won the Clark in 2005 with Magna Graduate and 2007 with A.P. Arrow. “We’re hoping he can get the Grade 1 he deserves.”

Yet one more fringe threat is Lunar Victory, a New York-bred by way of Great Britain. Since Juddmonte Farms turned over the 5-year-old to Bill Mott, he has won 6 of 8 starts in the United States, with his latest a convincing run in the Empire Classic against fellow statebreds. Mott, of course, knows how to win at Churchill, having swept the BC Classic and Ladies’ Classic here in 2011 while becoming the all-time leading stakes-winning trainer in track history.

Richard More than 1 year ago
I have looked over the entries for both The Clark at Churchill at 1 1/8 miles on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, and The Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Sat. Nov. 24, 2012 and I think the Clark is going to be a more competitive race with ten entries. There are a lot of good hoses but I would not consider Fast Falcon a long shot after showing in The Travers at 32.5-1 and missing the win by 1 length at 1 ¼ miles. This looks to be a well matched race. I am glad to see Repole has decided to give Stay Thirsty one more chance before he is retired by racing him in The Cigar Mile. He raced too good of a race in The Jockey Club Gold Cup leading the whole way and barely being beat by Fort Larned. Do not be surprised if he beats Groupie Doll who is a nice horse but he is really her main threat. It is a different situation in The Clark where I think Shackleford is going to run well at a good route distance. Something had Shackleford all shook up in The BC Dirt Mile post parade and I thought he was going to be scratched. He settled down when Dominguez got on him. It will be the end of two great horses’ careers. Shackleford and Stay Thirsty. Stay Thirsty really digged in The Jockey Club Gold Cup and Rosario had to make a decision and try to finish him off because the other horses that were able to come up to him and challenge him could not and faded away. Fort Larned barely pulled it off. Good luck to both of the horses and their connections for having entertained us for their four year old careers. Good Luck to both of them!
Irwin Cohen More than 1 year ago
what happened to the pps for race of the day no wonder hr sucks.
DRFInsidePost More than 1 year ago
The link to the Race of the Day PPs can be found on the home page at http://drf.com/rod Or go under Video > Race of the Day in the main nav bar.