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Tom’s d’Etat, 2017 winner Seeking the Soul headline Clark

Today’s Churchill Downs media notes penned by Kevin Kerstein:

       LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019)G M B Racing’s multiple graded stakes winner Tom’s d’Etat is set to bid for Grade I glory in Friday’s $600,000 Clark Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) against Charles Fipke’s 2017 Clark champion Seeking the Soul and 10 others in a competitive 145th renewal of the 1 1/8-mile premiere event at the Churchill Downs Fall Meet.

The Clark heads a duo of stakes races on the 12-race “Black Friday” card on the day after Thanksgiving that is traditionally the most popular racing day Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet. The main event is scheduled as the 11th race at 5:56 p.m. (all times Eastern) on the Friday program that also features the 29th running of the $300,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) for 3-year-old fillies on turf. Post time for Friday’s first race is 1 p.m.

Like the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), the Clark was run for the first time in 1875’s inaugural racing meet at Churchill Downs, which was then known as the Louisville Jockey Club. The Clark, the Derby and the Oaks have been run each year without interruption since their debuts.

Tom’s d’Etat winning Keeneland’s Fayette Stakes. Coady Photography

Tom’s d’Etat (15-8-2-1—$886,892), trained by veteran horseman Al Stall Jr., won the $300,000 Fayette (GII) on closing day of Keeneland’s Fall Meet, a race that is traditionally used as a prep race for the Clark. The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike has been in top form since a nonplused ninth-place effort in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup (GI) in late January at Gulfstream Park. Tom’s d’Etat’s2019 campaign included a victory in the $100,000 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga, a runner-up effort in the $400,000 Alysheba (GII) and a third-place finish in the $600,000 Stephen Foster (GII) at Churchill Downs.

“He definitely deserves a Grade I,” Stall said. “(The Clark) was the perfect race to go to after the Fayette. He is stabled here and handles Churchill very well.”

Joel Rosario, one of the nation’s leading riders, will ride Tom’s d’Etat who drew post position No. 2.

Among Tom’s d’Etat’s rivals in the Clark is 2017 Clark hero Seeking the Soul (30-7-6-7—$3,414,153), who will attempt to become only the fourth horse to win multiple runnings of the Clark. Trained by Dallas Stewart, Seeking the Soul had an unsuccessful journey to California for his last three starts with off-the-board finishes in the $1 million Pacific Classic (GI), $300,000 Awesome Again (GI) and $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).

“We’re back at Churchill where we know he likes to win,” Stewart said. “He looks like he did when he was preparing for the 2017 Clark. We’re very excited to get him in the gate Friday.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. will be reunited with Seeking the Soul from post 11.

Seeking the Soul and Tom’s d’Etat are familiar foes and have faced one another three times over the last year with Seeking the Soul getting the best of Tom’s d’Etat twice: a runner-up effort in the Pegasus World Cup and victory in the Stephen Foster.

Another rival to Tom’s d’Etat and Seeking the Soul in the Clark is Calumet Farm’s homebred Bravazo (17-3-4-3—$2,003,528), who will be making his first start in 10 months after he finished fourth in the Pegasus World Cup. Bravazo, a 4-year-old colt by Awesome Again, danced in nearly every dance during his 3-year-old campaign, including a narrow runner-up effort behind eventual Triple Crown winner Justify in the $1.5 million Preakness (GI) and a neck defeat in last year’s Clark.

Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Luis Saez has the mount in the Clark and will break from post 10.

Also entered in the Clark is Rupp Racing’s up-and-coming 3-year-old colt Owendale (13-5-1-2—$958,725), who continued to improve throughout his 2019 campaign with victories in the $500,000 Ohio Derby (GIII) and $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (GIII).Owendale tested Grade I waters in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but finished a disappointing 10th. Conditioned by Brad Cox, Owendalewill get the riding services of Florent Geroux out of post 8. Cox will defend his title in the Clark after winning last year’s event withLeofric.

Another entrant in the Clark is Wayne Davis’ $250,000 Lukas Classic (GIII) upset winner Mocito Rojo, who hopes to rebound from an enigmatic seventh-place effort in the Fayette. Filemon Rodriguez has the mount for trainer Shane Wilson from post 3.

C R K Stable’s 2018 Affirmed (GIII) winner Draft Pick (13-3-3-3—$513,480) will make the journey from his Southern California base to Churchill Downs for trainer Peter Eurton. His regular pilot Joe Talamo will be in the irons from the rail. Talamo, a Louisiana-native who has spent most of his career competing in Southern California, is scheduled to move his tack to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. this winter and compete on the Kentucky circuit in the spring.

Mary and Chester Browman Sr.’s Mr. Buff (32-11-6-4—$869,536) will travel to Churchill Downs from his base in New York for the Clark. The 5-year-old trained by John Kimmel recently bested state-bred competition in the $300,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park. Mr. Buff will break from post 7 with Junior Alvarado aboard.

The Clark field is rounded out by Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s $150,000 Ack Ack (GIII) winner and Fayette runner-up MrFreeze; Sareen Family Trust’s allowance winner Major Cabbie; Bloom Racing’s $750,000 Tourist Mile hero Snapper Sinclair;Robert and Bart Evans’ allowance victor Fact Finding; and Lawrence Roman, Heads Up Racing and Lucky Dog Stables’ recent $150,000 claim Pioneer Spirit.

The complete Clark Handicap field from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Draft Pick (Talamo, Eurton); Tom’s d’Etat(Rosario, Stall); Mocito Rojo (Rodriguez, Wilson); Major Cabbie (Paco Lopez, Peter Miller); Snapper Sinclair (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen); Fact Finding (Corey Lanerie, Charlie LoPresti); Mr. Buff (Junior Alvarado, John Kimmel); Owendale (Geroux, Cox); Mr Freeze (Robby Albarado, Dale Romans); Bravazo (Saez, Lukas); Seeking the Soul (Hernandez, Stewart); and Pioneer Spirit (David Cohen, Robertino Diodoro).

New for 2019, the Clark is no longer a handicap race. All horses will tote 121 pounds with the exception of Grade I winner Seeking the Soul, who will carry 123 pounds, and 3-year-old Owendale at 118 pounds.


BROWN STABLEMATES NEW AND IMPROVED, NAY LADY NAY (IRE) TOP GRADE II, $300,000 MRS. REVERE –Trainer Chad Brown’s duo of Klaravich Stables $200,000 Sands Point (Grade II) winner New and Improved and First Row Partners and Hidden Brook Farm’s $75,000 Parx Fall Oaks victor Nay Lady Nay (IRE) will invade Churchill Downs from New York to take on 12 rivals in Friday’s 29th rendition of the $300,000 Mrs. Revere (GII), a 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

The Mrs. Revere is scheduled for Race 9 with a post time of 4:57 p.m. (all times Eastern). The race, named as a tribute to the highly competitive filly Mrs. Revere who collected a total of four Churchill Downs stakes during a two-year reign from 1984-85, shares the spotlight with the $600,000 Clark Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) which will run two races later at 5:56 p.m. First post is 1 p.m.

New and Improved (3-2-0-0—$165,500), a gray filly by Cairo Prince, recorded her first stakes victory in the Sands Point at Belmont Park. Joel Rosario will ride the $320,000 purchase from the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale from post position No. 12.

Ten spots inside of New and Improved is her stablemate Nay Lady Nay (4-2-1-0—$92,200), who scored a 2 ½-length victory in her last start in the Parx Fall Oaks on Oct. 7. The filly by No Nay Never is cross-entered in Aqueduct’s $150,000 Winter Memories Stakes on Thursday. Junior Alvarado has the call on Nay Lady Nay in the Mrs. Revere.

Another notable entrant to the 12-horse Mrs. Revere is Katsumi Yoshida’s The Mackem Bullet (IRE) (11-3-2-3—$320,358), who defeated 10 rivals by 1 ¼ lengths in the $200,000 Appalachian (GII) at Keeneland prior to going on the sidelines for six months. Most recently, the Wesley Ward-trainee finished third in the $150,000 Valley View (GII) at Keeneland. Tyler Gaffalione has the return call from post 14.

The complete field for the Mrs. Revere from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Julia’s Ready (Martin Garcia, David Vance); Nay Lady Nay (IRE) (Alvarado, Brown); Proud Emma (Paco Lopez, Peter Miller); Dalika (GER) (Luis Saez, Al Stall Jr.); Winning Envelope (Brian Hernandez Jr., Chris Block); Winter Sunset (Channing Hill, Wayne Catalano); Hard Legacy (Julien Leparoux, Norm Casse); She’sonthewarpath (Chantal Sutherland, Steve Margolis); Passionof the Nile (Florent Geroux, Rodolphe Brisset); Amandrea(Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen); Delta’s Kingdom (Joe Talamo, Bill Mott); New and Improved (Rosario, Brown); Wildlife(Corey Lanerie, Vicki Oliver); and The Mackem Bullet (Gaffalione, Ward).

All fillies will carry 118 pounds, except for New and Improved and The Mackem Bullet, who will tote 120.


‘IMPROVING’ SALLY’S CURLIN MADE 3-1 CO-FAVORITE IN THURSDAY’S FALLS CITYCJ Thoroughbreds, Left Turn Racing and Casner Racing’s $200,000 Chilukki (Grade II) winner Sally’s Curlin was made the 3-1 co-morning line favorite with Go Google Yourself as the 3-year-old filly tests Grade II company in Thursday’s $300,000 Falls City – the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving holiday racing feast at Churchill Downs.

“She’s turning into a really nice filly,” trainer Dale Romans said. “She was extremely impressive in the Chilukki last out and she keeps improving. She’s only a 3-year-old so time should only make her better. This race is a good spot for her and she’ll run a solid race.”

Thanksgiving’s renewal of the Falls City is scheduled as Race 9 on a 12-race program that begins with a special first race post time of 11:30 a.m. (all times EST). The Falls City shares the holiday racing spotlight with the 46th running of the $175,000 Cardinal (GIII) for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The Falls City has a scheduled post time of 3:24 p.m., while the Cardinal is set for 4:22 p.m.

Sally’s Curlin (9-4-0-3—$287,196) rallied strongly from off the pace to win the Chilukki four weeks ago – the local prep for the Falls City. The 3-year-old daughter of Curlin has recorded three of her four victories over the Churchill Downs surface and will be reunited with leading rider Corey Lanerie for the Falls City and break from post position No. 6.

“Churchill is our home and the Thanksgiving card is always special for the entire community,” Romans said. “It’ll be an exciting day for us and her owners.”

Among her rivals in the Falls City is fellow morning line favorite, Jay Em Ess Stable’s Go Google Yourself (17-6-4-3—$462,025), who will ride a two-race win streak into the Falls City. Go Google Yourself skipped the Chilukki and has worked consistently towards the Falls City for trainer Paul McGee. The 4-year-old filly by Into Mischief has been the picture of consistency for most of her career. The only major blemish in her last eight starts was a fourth-place effort behind Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) contenderElate in the $250,000 Fleur de Lis (GII). Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call on Go Google Yourself from post 9.

Other entrants in the Falls City include Gary Broad’s $250,000 Empire Distaff winner Ratajkowski; trainer Brad Cox’s duo of Sather Family’s Chilukki runner-up Mylady Curlin and Jerry Marks Stables’ Locust Grove runner-up Moonlit Garden; and Winchester Place Thoroughbreds recent two-length allowance winner Princess Causeway.

The complete field for the Falls City (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Moonlit Garden (Florent Geroux, Cox, 10-1); Gradaria (Ricardo Santana Jr., Brendan Walsh, 20-1); Mylady Curlin (Tyler Gaffalione, Cox, 7-2); Vevina (Martin Garcia, Phil D’Amato, 15-1); Over Thinking (Jon Court, Vicki Oliver, 20-1); Sally’s Curlin (Lanerie, Romans, 3-1); Princess Causeway (ChrisLanderos, Ian Wilkes, 10-1); Ratajkowski (Julien Leparoux, Brian Lynch, 7-2); and Go Google Yourself (Hernandez, McPeek, 3-1).

The Falls City dates back to the first racing meet in 1875 at the track then known as the Louisville Jockey Club, but unlike the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI), the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Friday’s Clark Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – all of which made their debuts in that first local racing meet and have been run annually since – there have been some gaps in its renewals through the years. Through its history the 1 1/8-mile Falls City has provided a stage for both rising stars and fillies and mares who are preparing to end their racing days and embark on a new career in the breeding shed.

Racing on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition for 50 years where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region.


CANADIAN STAR STARSHIP JUBILEE MADE HEAVY 6-5 FAVORITE IN CARDINALBlue Heaven Farm’s multiple graded stakes winner Starship Jubilee was made the 6-5 morning line favorite as she tops a field of 12 older fillies and mares in Thursday’s $175,000 Cardinal (Grade III), a 1 1/8-mile turf test at Churchill Downs.

The co-feature on the 12-race Thanksgiving Day card, along with the $300,000 Falls City (GII), is slated as Race 11 with a post time of 4:22 p.m. (all times Eastern). The first post gets underway at a special time of 11:30 a.m.

Starship Jubilee (31-14-4-3—$1,138,487) is a top contender for Canadian Horse of the Year honors following a stellar 2019 campaign that included a one-length score in the $600,000 E.P. Taylor (GI) at Woodbine. Trained by Kevin Attard, Starship Jubilee was claimed for $16,000 in 2017 at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old mare by Indy Wind is searching for her first victory outside of Woodbine and Gulfstream Park. Luis Contreras has the call on Starship Jubilee from post position No. 11.

Another top contender that entered the Cardinal is Stonehaven Steadings’ $200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes (GIII) winner Notapradaprice (26-8-7-3—$461,400), who will make her first start since being transferred to trainer Eddie Kenneally from John Servis. The 5-year-old mare by Paddy O’Prado has been in top form in her last four starts that included a victory in the $150,000 All Along Stakes and a half-length victory in the Dr. James Penny Memorial. Leading rider Corey Lanerie has the mount from post 6.

The complete field for the Cardinal (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Stave (Gabriel Saez, Larry Jones, 12-1); Kallio(Tyler Gaffalione, Brendan Walsh, 12-1); Tweety Show (Julie Burke, Ron Isbell Jr., 50-1); Maroubra (FR) (Julien Leparoux, Cherie DeVaux, 8-1); Smart Emma (Channing Hill, Danny Peitz, 15-1); Notapradaprice (Lanerie, Kenneally, 8-1); English Soul (Declan Cannon, Jack Sisterson, 30-1); Limari (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 4-1); Cash Out (Chris Landeros, Rusty Arnold II, 15-1); Smart Shot (Brian Hernandez Jr., Arnold, 10-1); Starship Jubilee (Contreras, Attard, 6-5); and Area (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 30-1).

All horses will tote 121 pounds except Starship Jubilee who will carry 125 lbs.


FLIGHT SCHEDULE – Several horses are scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs early next week to compete in six graded stakes events worth purses of $1.975 million. There are two planes slated to arrive at Churchill Downs on Monday and Tuesday.

Monday’s plane will be arriving at Churchill Downs from New York in the early afternoon and include (with trainer, race and Barn) Mr. Buff (John Kimmel, Clark, 19); Nay Lady Nay (Chad Brown, Mrs. Revere, 25); New and Improved (Brown, Mrs. Revere, 25); and Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg, Kentucky Jockey Club, 20).

After the plane drops off those runners from New York, it is scheduled to fly to California and return in the mid-afternoon hours on Tuesday with trainer Peter Eurton’s Draft Pick on board for the Clark. Draft Pick will likely be stabled in the Stakes Barn, according to Churchill Downs’ Senior Director of the Stable Area Steve Hargrave.


CHURCHILL DOWNS, FAIR GROUNDS TO OFFER ‘FLEUR DE LIS’ PICK 4 NEXT SATURDAY – For the second consecutive year, Churchill Downs Racetrack and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will team to offer horseplayers a cross-track Pick 4 on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Billed as the “Fleur de Lis Pick 4,” bettors will be required to pick the winners of four races late Saturday afternoon: two races at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La. and two stakes events at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

The minimum wager on the Fleur de Lis Pick 4 is 50 cents. Fair Grounds will serve as host of the wager.

Here’s the sequence for the unique Fleur de Lis Pick 4:

  • Leg 1: Fair Grounds Race 7 (4:35 p.m. ET)
  • Leg 2: Churchill Downs Race 9 (4:57 p.m. ET)
  • Leg 3: Fair Grounds Race 9 (5:35 p.m. ET)
  • Leg 4: Churchill Downs Race 11 (5:56 p.m. ET)

The opening leg from Fair Grounds is a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf (an oversubscribed field of 14), while the third leg is the $75,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial for fillies and mares at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass (an oversubscribed field of 12). The second and fourth legs from Churchill Downs are likely to be the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club (entries will be drawn Wednesday).

The Fleur de Lis is a symbol that is deeply ingrained in the history of both Louisville and New Orleans and has traditionally been used to represent French royalty. The English translation for the French “fleur-de-lis” is flower of the lily.


DOWN THE STRETCH – With rain showers throughout the day on Saturday in the Louisville area, there will be no turf racing on Sunday at Churchill Downs. The track was rated “muddy” for the start of racing but was upgraded to “fast” by the third race. … There was a $180,197 carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot for racing on Sunday, which will span Races 5-10. … Closing week of the Fall Meet at Churchill Downs will have 12 races Thursday-Sunday. Wednesday’s card has 10. First post will be 1 p.m. with the exception of Thanksgiving where the first race is 11:30 a.m. … The Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 and Kentucky Derby Sire Wager will run Thursday-Sunday. Win and exacta wagering will be available on www.TwinSpires.com and simulcast outlets throughout the country. For more information visit www.kentuckyderby.com/futurewager. The fields will be announced Monday afternoon.


Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.