04/18/2013 3:38PM

Pimlico: Henry Clark Stakes is toughest of card's three stakes to handicap

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Roadhog, seen winning last year's Jim McKay Maryland Million Turf, will make his 2013 debut in Saturday's Henry Clark Stakes.

There are 14 horses in the main body of the field for Saturday’s Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico, but that’s only part of the reason why the last of three $75,000 stakes on the program is the toughest to handicap.

Among the group scheduled to race one mile on grass in the Clark, eight will be making their first start of the season, meaning players must guess who’s rusty and who’s ready. To compound matters, not a single runner shows a win within the past two seasons at the precise distance of the Clark.

Humble and Hungry stands out on class. Among his last four starts are a Grade 3 victory in the Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs and a runner-up finish in last spring’s Grade 2 Dixie on the Preakness undercard. But the fragile Humble and Hungry was limited to three starts in 2012, was sidelined with an injury sustained in the Colonial Turf Cup last June, and could not manage to do better than fourth when he returned from a long layoff in last year’s Clark, despite taking a steep class drop off his Commonwealth victory.

“He is coming off a big layoff,” said trainer Ignacio Correas. “He cracked a quarter in the Colonial Turf Cup and we gave it time to heal. He is doing great and we are using this race as a prep for another run at the Dixie.”

The Pennsylvania-bred Roadhog won two turf stakes in 2012, including the Maryland Million Turf. That win came at 1 1/8 miles, however. The last time Roadhog tried a flat mile, he could not hang on against $35,000 claimers at Delaware Park.

The distance is a good fit for Sleepless Knight, who missed by a neck at Tampa Bay Downs in January and by a half-length as the runner-up in the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs last June. The 7-year-old Sleepless Knight is mired in an 0-for-10 slump over the past two seasons.

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Based on recency, Julius Geezer looks dangerous while stepping up in class. A 5-year-old Irish-bred, Julius Geezer has won two of his last three starts, including a one-length score two weeks ago against optional $16,000 claimers in New York.

Among the long absent, beware of Powder Mountain. His last one-mile race on turf produced a 6 1/4-length win in November 2011.

His trainer, Rodney Jenkins, shows a 7-for-29 record (24 percent) with runners returning in a turf route following a break of 61 to 180 days.

◗ Winning Image, a three-time sprint stakes winner last season, and Bold Affair, who has four stakes wins in her last five starts, clash in the Primonetta, a six-furlong dirt race for fillies and mares (race 9). Winning Image makes her first start since taking the Willa On The Move Stakes at Laurel in December. Bold Affair has primarily been beating up on Maryland-breds, although she did easily beat open-company sprinters in the What a Summer Stakes two starts ago.

Winning Image makes her first start since taking the Willa On The Move Stakes at Laurel in December. Bold Affair has primarily been beating up on Maryland-breds, although she did easily beat open-company sprinters in the What a Summer Stakes two starts ago.

◗ Girl of the Rain, a four-time winner as a 2-year-old turf sprinter in Italy; Zip Cash Back, winner of the Tippett over yielding ground at Colonial; and Jewel of a Cat, who rallied to get second in a 12-horse field in last fall’s $130,000 Selima, are among the contenders in a wide-open group of 3-year-old fillies going five furlongs on grass in the Stormy Blues (race 7).