11/21/2008 12:00AM

Few willing to face Commentator


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs racing officials are expecting a small field, with maybe only as many five horses challenging Commentator when the annual fall-meet highlight, the Grade 2 Clark Handicap, is run Friday for the 135th time.

Commentator, the speedy New York-bred gelding with 13 wins from 20 starts, will be the highweight and favorite in the $400,000 Clark, one of four Grade 2 races that will close out the 26-day fall meet during the Thanksgiving weekend. Weights for the 1 1/8-mile race were to be released Saturday, with entries taken and drawn Tuesday.

Commentator, with John Velazquez riding for owner Tracy Farmer and trainer Nick Zito, will be coming off back-to-back romps in the Whitney and Massachusetts handicaps. At this juncture, there seems to be only one horse among the known prospects that might be able to run early with the speedy 7-year-old, and that is Delosvientos, although he is a marathon specialist who would be shortening up from longer races.

The other known probables for the Clark include Delightful Kiss, Dominican, Magna Graduate, and Wayzata Bay. In addition, Zito is considering Anak Nakal for the race.

Trainer Rick Dutrow said earlier this month that he was looking to challenge Commentator with a pair of rabbits and the late-running Arson Squad, but he has since softened that tone and apparently will be keeping Arson Squad in New York to run in the Cigar Mile. Nonetheless, Dutrow has three of the 26 nominees to the Clark: Arson Squad, Maven, and Unity.

Commentator, who arrived here Nov. 12 from New York, had his final Clark tune-up Thursday when he breezed a half-mile in 48.60 seconds over a fast track with Julien Leparoux up.

"He finished up strong and galloped out good," said Zito.

Anak Nakal also breezed a half-mile Thursday when going in 49.80 seconds.

"There's an outside chance he could run," said Zito. Noting that Anak Nakal won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes here last fall at 2, Zito added: "We know he likes this track."

One Clark prospect who was quietly withdrawn from consideration is Mambo in Seattle, the Travers runner-up. Trainer Neil Howard said he is opting instead for the $60,000 Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds on the following day.

"The horse is doing fine but we've been running in some overly tough races," said Howard. "We want to have a good horse for next year."

Brownie Points heads Falls City

As with the Clark, the field for the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap also is expected to be small. Brownie Points, who can surpass the $1 million earnings mark with a victory for owner-breeder Pin Oak Stable, figures as one of the top contenders in the 1 1/8-mile Falls City, which anchors the Thursday program.

Other probables for the $150,000 Falls City include Devil House, Initforthekandy, Spring Waltz, Swift Temper, and Unforgotten.

Brownie Points, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, has been first, second, or third in 21 of 26 career starts.

Dream Empress tops Golden Rod

The twin stakes for 2-year-olds, the Golden Rod and KJC, will highlight the second "Stars of Tomorrow" program of the meet when helping to close the meet on Nov. 29.

Of the two, both set for 1 1/16 miles, the $150,000 Golden Rod appears to be coming up deeper. Dream Empress, the runner-up to Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is expected to run, as are Sara Louise and Rachel Alexandra, the respective one-two finishers in the Pocahontas Stakes earlier in the meet.

For the $150,000 KJC, Capt. Candyman Can looks like a solid favorite after posting an impressive triumph in the Iroquois Stakes in his last start for trainer Ian Wilkes.

All closing-day races will be restricted to 2-year-olds. The first Stars of Tomorrow card was run Nov. 1.

* First post for the final three days of the meet will 11:30 a.m. Eastern. Twelve races will be carded on each of those days.