July 19, 2024

Leofric edges Bravazo in Clark Handicap

Leofric (inside) notched his third graded stakes win, and first Grade 1, with a game head score in the Clark Handicap (c) Coady Photo

Leofric continued his ascension in the older horse ranks with a thrilling win in Friday’s $500,000 Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs, gamely repelling the late charge of Bravazo to prevail by a head. Florent Geroux was up for Brad Cox.

Off as the 3-1 third choice, Leofric saved ground while stalking the pace in fourth during the early stages as Prime Attraction showed the way on a clear lead through opening splits of :23.56, :47.58 and 1:11.61. Geroux guided his mount out leaving the far turn and reeled in the pacesetter in midstretch.

Bravazo closed four wide to make it exciting in the latter stages but the 2-1 second choice could not get past the winner, who completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.59.

“We had a great trip in the pocket the entire way around,” said Geroux, who also won the 2016 Clark Handicap aboard Gun Runner. “That made the difference. This is a really nice horse. He’s had some great preparation by Brad and his team before this race. He fought Bravazo the whole way until the wire. I’m so proud of his effort.”

“I’m so proud of his effort,” Bravazo’s jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran really hard today. We had a great trip just off of the pace and I tipped him towards the outside around the three-eighths pole and he started to pick off horses. He tried the entire way down the lane and we almost got the job done.”

Seeking the Soul, the 3-2 favorite, offered a run into contention by midstretch before flattening out late and wound up another 2 ¾ lengths back in third, nearly a length better than 5-1 Prime Attraction in fourth.

Owned by Steve Landers Racing, Leofric was exiting a head score in the October 27 Fayette (G2) at Keeneland and the late bloomer has now captured three-of-five starts in graded stakes. He increased his earning to $951,740 from a 14-8-1-3 career record.

A five-year-old son of Candy Ride, Leofric didn’t make his career debut until his three-year-old season and sold for $100,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale after dropping his first three starts. The gray horse won at first asking for Cox, breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Park in January 2017, but headed to the sidelines for eight months after following with a pair of victories over conditioned allowance foes.

He returned from a freshening with a third in his stakes debut, the Tenacious at Fair Grounds last December, and two starts later finished second in the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Leofric earned his first stakes tally in the August 4 West Virginia Governor’s (G3) at Mountaineer and finished third in the September 1 Woodward (G1) at Saratoga two starts previous to the Clark.

Bred by Peter E Blum Thoroughbreds, Leofric hails from the unraced Unbridled’s Song mare Lady Godiva, a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Multiple Choice. Grade 1 winners Telling and Well Chosen can be found in the immediate female family.

Leofric will be one of the leading older horses entering 2019.

“Florent did a great job,” Cox said. “He ran really well after running most of the summer and not missing a beat. He ran hard in the Fayette and I was a little concerned he may be coming back a bit too quick. He had two really nice breezes over the track and came into today’s race ready to go. Mr. Landers has been very patient with this horse. We’ll maybe look at the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) or something like that down the road. We’ll see how he comes out of things. I’m really proud of his effort. He’s really turned the corner over the summer and become a top-quality horse.”