January 22, 2022

Maxfield looks to go out a winner in Clark

Maxfield, with Jose Ortiz up, wins the Stephen Foster Stakes under the Twin Spires (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Clark S. (G1) — Race 11 (5:56 p.m. ET)

Maxfield will make the 11th and final start of his star-crossed career under the lights at Churchill Downs on Friday when he breaks outside seven rivals in the $750,000 Clark S. (G1) over 1 1/8 miles.

The winner in seven of his 10 previous starts, Maxfield heads off to stud, at Darley Jonabell, following the Clark. The Street Sense colt’s career has been tremendous by any measure, but he could have been a more decorated performer if not for untimely injuries that kept him out of the Breeders’ Cup at two and the Kentucky Derby (G1) last season.

Maxfield has had a fuller campaign this year, but recent losses to Knicks Go in the Whitney (G1) and to Art Collector in the Woodward (G1) had connections thinking the Clark would be a more suitable place to wind up the Godolphin homebred’s career. Having Maxfield’s swan song at Churchill makes complete sense as he’s 4-for-4 over the strip. He broke his maiden in his debut here in September 2019, and later captured the Matt Winn (G3), Alysheba (G2), and Stephen Foster (G2).

“This horse just cruises over this racetrack. He simply loves it at Churchill,” trainer Brendan Walsh said after Maxfield’s final pre-Clark work last week.

The Clark field is enhanced by another who sidestepped the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the three-year-old Midnight Bourbon. Although he has just the one win this season, in the Lecomte (G3) back in January, the Steve Asmussen trainee has run strongly of late against his division’s best. After running Essential Quality to a neck in the Travers (G1), he was a sharp runner-up to Hot Rod Charlie in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who last won the Clark in 2007 with A. P. Arrow, will take two shots with Happy Saver and Dr Post. Happy Saver defeated Mystic Guide in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) to cap a perfect 4-for-4 season in 2020, but hasn’t built on that strong start to his career this term. He was a well-held third in the Suburban (G2) and second in his Gold Cup title defense this summer, both times to Max Player.

Dr Post has a pair of graded wins this season, in the one-mile Westchester (G3) and nine-furlong Monmouth Cup (G3), and was most recently third in both the Pacific Classic (G1) and Woodward.

Three-year-olds have won three of the last 10 editions of the Clark, which might give some inspiration to King Fury. The Grade 3 scorer has won three times in four tries at Churchill, though his form in graded company recently has been less than what’s required to register an upset Friday.