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Clark serves as Magna Graduate's finale
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - None of the 34 races that Magna Graduate has run was more valuable than the Clark Handicap in 2005, when he outgamed Suave in a furious stretch drive to earn the $355,570 winner's share.
Three years later, Magna Graduate will try to go out a big winner when he makes the 35th and final start of his career Friday in the $400,000 Clark at Churchill Downs.
"He's been a warhorse," said Kim Valerio, racing manager for owner Elisabeth Alexander. Noting that Magna Graduate, a 6-year-old horse who has earned more than $2.56 million, has run in graded stakes in all but one of his last 27 races, Valerio added: "Horses just don't do what he's done very much anymore. He's just an awesome horse."
Magna Graduate, with Shaun Bridgmohan to ride for trainer Steve Asmussen, is one of perhaps seven horses expected to face heavily favored Commentator in the 1 1/8-mile Clark. Commentator, with John Velazquez to ride, will carry high weight of 124 pounds and spots Magna Graduate four pounds and the rest of the field as much as nine pounds.
After the Clark, Magna Graduate, by Honor Grades, will head off to stud at Darby Dan Farm. He comes into the Clark off a terrific effort, having surged late to win the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap on opening day of the Churchill fall meet, Oct. 26, by 2 1/4 lengths.
Magna Graduate started his career in obscurity, finishing third in an Ellis Park turf sprint in July 2004 for trainer Garry Simms. On the advice of Pat Byrne, Alexander bought the horse privately after his third start. Byrne trained him for seven races, winning twice, before Todd Pletcher assumed his training. In all, Magna Graduate has raced at 16 different tracks, including Nad Al Sheba in Dubai, with his last three races coming under Asmussen's care.
"I don't know if we can beat Commentator, but if we can it'd be a perfect way to go out," said Valerio.
Entries for the Clark were to be drawn Tuesday. Other probable starters include Anak Nakal, 118 pounds; Delosvientos, 118; Wayzata Bay, 117; Delightful Kiss, 116; Timber Reserve, 116; and Dominican, 115.
The 134th Clark is one of four Grade 2 races that will close out the 26-day fall meet Thursday through Saturday. Each of the final three programs will consist of 12 races and will start earlier than usual, at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. Three pick four wagers, instead of the usual two, will be offered on each of those days.
The weather forecast during the final three-day stretch calls for seasonal temperatures in the 40s, with possible rain on Friday.
Frankel has strong pair for Falls City
Churchill racing officials had talked about maybe only six fillies and mares running Thursday in the $150,000 Falls City Handicap, but when the entries came out, the race had double that number.
Of the 12, two come from the Bobby Frankel barn, and either looks plenty capable of winning the 1o1/8-mile Falls City, which kicks off the final spree of stakes as the Thanksgiving Day feature. Each comes off a sharp effort in a graded race: Skylighter, a Darley Stable
3-year-old, won the Indiana Oaks, while Spring Waltz, a Stronach Stable 5-year-old, was a close second as the odds-on favorite in the Turnback the Alarm at Belmont.
Spring Waltz, with Robby Albarado to ride, will start as the 120-pound highweight. Brownie Points is next on the weights list at 119, while Miss Isella has the lightest assignment at 111.
The 94th Falls City also drew Tiz to Dream, Tell It As It Is, Swift Temper, Stop a Train, Devil House, Initforthekandy, Unforgotten, and Copper State.
The Falls City goes as the 11th race with post time set for 4:24.
Capt. Candyman Can tops KJC probables
Capt. Candyman Can and Sara Louise, impressive stakes winners on the first Stars of Tomorrow program of the meet on Nov. 1, will be among the major players in the twin 2-year-old stakes that wrap up the meet Saturday on the second Stars card.
Capt. Candyman Can heads a field of seven or eight colts and geldings expected for the $150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, while Sara Louise will have Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Dream Empress and perhaps four or five other fillies for opponents in the $150,000 Golden Rod Stakes.
Capt. Candyman Can, trained by Ian Wilkes, won the Iroquois shortly after Sara Louise, trained by Dale Romans, took the Pocahontas on the Nov. 1 card.
Both the KJC and Golden Rod are run at 1 1/16 miles.
All 12 races Saturday will be for 2-year-olds.
Leparoux closing in on record
Julien Leparoux, who rode three winners on both the Saturday and Sunday cards, needs only six wins during the final four-day span to break the Churchill fall-meet record for most wins by a jockey. Into Wednesday, Leparoux had ridden 50 winners, just five short of the record set in 1985 by Pat Day.
Leparoux also leads the jockey standings in mount earnings at this meet with more than $1.35 million.
Troilo relishes first graded victory
Bill Troilo, the 47-year-old jockey who got the first graded victory of his riding career Saturday when Karelian dead-heated for win in the Grade 3 River City Handicap, has quietly kicked around the idea of retiring in recent years. But few things in retirement will allow Troilo to feel what he did Saturday.
"It was a great feeling," said Troilo, who has 2,455 career wins. "You just never know what the next day will bring."
Slow start hinders Captain Cherokee
Captain Cherokee, a half-brother to two-time Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute, ran what would have been a winning race when making his career debut in the last race Saturday, except the Sir Cherokee colt spotted his rivals a huge head-start, getting away slowly in the 6 1/2-furlong race.
Sent away the favorite, Captain Cherokee, trained by Asmussen, continued resolutely to finish second. The 2-year-old Captain Cherokee likely will make his next start at Fair Grounds.
* Matty's Trail ($8.40) outfought Chris Got Even to win a $46,000 allowance route, and Control System ($7.60) held off Awsugahnow in a $44,260 allowance sprint in accounting for the co-featured races here Sunday. The win margin for both horses was three-quarters of a length.
* A carryover of $15,063 in the Z-5 jackpot will be up for grabs in the third race Wednesday. Also, the carryover in the pick six is $9,031.