Updated on 09/15/2011 1:30PM

Foes won't concede Clark to Include

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photos
Outofthebox could play spoiler to heavy favorite Include (above) if he runs as well as he did in winning the Super Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Clarks would be proud. Churchill Downs founder M. Lewis Clark and his legendary ancestors, explorers William and George Rogers Clark, surely would approve of how opposing trainers are searching for ways to defeat Include, the top-weighted favorite in the 127th running of the Clark Handicap on Friday.

"How are we going to beat him?" asked Steve Flint, trainer of one of Include's main challengers, Outofthebox. "I don't have a clue. I'm just going to bring my horse over and hope he does his best."

"We beat him in the Meadowlands Cup, so maybe we can do it again," said John Terranova, trainer of Gander, the likely second choice in the Grade 2, $400,000 Clark. "But Include is going to be tough."

The credentials that * brings from his home state of Maryland are strong indeed. A 4-year-old Broad Brush colt bred and owned by Robert Meyerhoff, Include has earned nearly $1.35 million this year, largely on the strength of a five-race win streak that concluded with the Grade 1 Pimlico Special and Grade 2 Massachusetts Handicap.

Although he has lost his last three starts - including a half-length defeat to Gander at The Meadowlands and a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic in his last appearance - Include easily will be the public choice in a field of 10, especially with the ever-popular Pat Day taking the call from trainer Grover "Bud" Delp.

But that doesn't mean he can't get beat.

"I don't think he's undefeated, is he?" Flint asked playfully. "Oh, he's been beat before. Well, maybe it can happen again."

With Outofthebox, Flint believes he may have the right upset material. Two starts back, Outofthebox defeated fellow 3-year-olds in the Grade 1 Super Derby, after which the colt finished a troubled third in the Oct. 27 Fayette Stakes, a race won by fellow Clark contender Connected.

"My colt can't be training any better," said Flint, who trains Outofthebox for the Klein family of Louisville. "What I really liked was his last work," when he went six furlongs [around two turns] in 1:12.60. "Horses just don't work that good."

The 1 1/8-mile Clark does not appear to have much speed, which is a primary reason that Terranova likes Gander's chances. Since Terranova assumed the gray gelding's training in mid-2000, Gander has earned nearly $1 million, primarily by utilizing his tactical speed and engaging his rivals to the bitter end. That is how he won the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup on Sept. 28 and how he earned checks in Grade 1 races such as the Donn and Whitney handicaps.

"He grinds it out," said Terranova. "It's important that he comes away clean Friday." In the Breeders' Cup Classic, in which Gander finished ninth while never a factor, "he basically lost his race at the start. It was horrible. He got checked about a million times, and that's obviously not his style to come from off it."

Terranova will employ Jorge Chavez to put Gander immediately into the race. "Without much other speed in there, we'll probably be on the lead," said Terranova.

The rest of the Clark field does not look as strong as the favorites, although Connected, as the winner of his last two starts at Keeneland, is in peak form.

Trainer David Carroll believes Connected runs his best races when in a familiar environment, and Churchill is where the 4-year-old gelding eats, sleeps, and trains.

The rest of the field is Tahkodha Hills, Ubiquity, Tribunal, Storm Day, Mr Ross, and Woodmoon.

The Clark long has been the signature race of the Churchill fall meet; like the Kentucky Derby and Oaks and several other races, it dates to 1875. Easily the most notable recent winner of the race was Silver Charm in 1998. Last year's winner was the eventual Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly, Surfside.

Officials are predicting an ontrack crowd of about 16,000 on a day that traditionally is well attended.

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