04/26/2012 10:56AM

Pimlico: El Commodore goes into Henry Clark off sharp effort


Two horses who narrowly missed winning a Grade 3 stakes and another who captured a Grade 3 event in his most recent start – albeit nearly six months ago – are part of a deeper than usual edition of the $75,000 Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico. Several of the horses are using the Clark as a prep for the Grade 2, $300,000 Dixie Stakes on the May 19 Preakness undercard.

The 10-horse main body of the field includes El Commodore, a front-runner who was nosed out at 33-1 in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes two starts ago on Feb. 25. He owns a recency edge over the Todd Pletcher-trained Hudson Steele, who has been off for nearly a year since coming up a neck shy as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy, and Humble and Hungry, idle since scoring an 11-1 upset in the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Churchill Downs last Nov. 3.

Adding to the depth of the one-mile turf race are defending champion Pocket Patch, making his season’s debut following a six-month vacation, and Monument Hill, who would have been one of the favorites in last weekend’s Grade 3 Miami Mile, but scratched when the race at Calder was taken off the turf.

The 5-year-old El Commodore will break from the rail under Florida-based rider Daniel Centeno. He owns a 3-for-8 record at the Henry Clark distance.

The lightly raced 5-year-old Hudson Steele has raced just eight times in his career, including twice last season. Pletcher is 1 for 10 bringing back turf horses from a break of longer than 180 days in a non-graded stakes.

Locally based Humble and Hungry, a 4-year-old, finished second in the $100,000 James Murphy in his lone start on Pimlico’s turf. The only time he has finished worse than third in seven starts on grass came when he had a wide trip from post 11 in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

"We are looking to get him ready for the Dixie,” trainer Ignacio Correas said. “Last year he was getting better with each race. He is a hard trying runner and always gives us a big effort."

Others who merit respect include Barbaro’s little brother Lentenor, beaten two lengths by El Commodore at Tampa; Concealed Identity, whose 2-for-2 record on turf include a victory in the restricted Find Handicap; and Kingofthebluegrass, whose five wins in 2011 included a pair of one-mile turf stakes at Mountaineer.