July 13, 2024

Seeking the Soul bids to regain crown, Bravazo returns in Clark

Seeking the Soul earned his third Churchill Downs stakes win in the Stephen Foster (c) Coady Photo

After an unsuccessful West Coast swing, Churchill Downs aficionado Seeking the Soul is back at his favorite venue for Friday’s $600,000 Clark (G1). The 2017 Clark winner, and last year’s third-placer as the defending champion, must repel 11 rivals to regain his crown in the historic feature.

Inaugurated in 1875 – the same year as the Kentucky Derby (G1) – the Clark has had only three two-time winners. Hodge (1915-16), Bold Favorite (1968-69), and Bob’s Dusty (1977-78) all won back-to-back, so if Seeking the Soul prevails, he’d make history by accomplishing the feat two years apart.

Trained by Dallas Stewart, the Charles Fipke homebred comes off a non-threatening sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. Seeking the Soul didn’t do himself justice in his two prior starts out west either, winding up seventh in the Pacific Classic (G1) and fourth in the Awesome Again (G1). But he’s excelled beneath the Twin Spires, and when last seen here, Seeking the Soul annexed the June 15 Stephen Foster (G2). Drawn in post 11, the closer figures to get a solid pace set-up.

Owendale is the other Clark entrant looking to rebound from the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he checked in a too-bad-to-be-true 10th. The Brad Cox sophomore had been on an upward curve, and with better luck, might have a gaudier resume than just his trio of Grade 3 scores. A wide-trip third in the Preakness (G1), Owendale was on the unfavorable inside path when fifth in the Travers (G1). Also in action at the Breeders’ Cup was Snapper Sinclair, a troubled fourth in the Dirt Mile (G1). The Steve Asmussen charge has a stamina question to answer over the added furlong.

Last year, Bravazo came within a neck of Clark glory as a three-year-old, and the veteran of Justify’s 2018 Triple Crown sweep launches his long-awaited comeback here. Sidelined since his fourth in the January 26 Pegasus World Cup (G1) (where Seeking the Soul was second), the Calumet homebred had a bone chip removed from a knee in March. A nine-furlong Grade 1 off the layoff isn’t the softest spot, but Bravazo has been training sharply for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Tom’s d’Etat, fresh off his graded breakthrough in the Fayette (G2), has likewise traded decisions with Seeking the Soul. Best of the rest behind McKinzie in the Alysheba (G2) on Kentucky Oaks Day, Tom’s d’Etat tired to third after arguing the Stephen Foster pace. His inside draw (post 2) might force his hand here.  Other forward types in the mix include multiple New York-bred stakes star Mr. Buff; Ack Ack (G3) scorer Mr Freeze, most recently second in the Fayette; Major Cabbie, an impressive Keeneland allowance winner making his stakes debut for Peter Miller; Fact Finding, who steps up but also stretches out; and Pioneer Spirit drawn widest of all in his first start off the claim for Robertino Diodoro.

Louisiana-based Mocito Rojo, reportedly all at sea in the Fayette slop at Keeneland, is eligible to turn the page if the track is better on Friday. The rags-to-riches story had capped a five-race winning streak in the Lukas Classic (G3) at this track and trip two back. Draft Pick invades from Southern California for Peter Eurton. Runner-up in the Pacific Classic (G1) at 13-1, the Candy Ride colt comes off an uncharacteristic fifth in the Awesome Again.

New and Improved wins the Sands Point S. at Belmont 2019
New and Improved wins the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont Park (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

Earlier on “Black Friday,” a full field of three-year-old turf fillies will contest the $300,000 Mrs. Revere (G2). Chad Brown holds a predictably strong hand with a pair of last-out stakes winners – Sands Point (G2) heroine New and Improved and Parx Fall Oaks scorer Nay Lady Nay. Both rolled from far back after troubled starts. New and Improved keeps Joel Rosario but landed in post 12 of 14, while Nay Lady Nay, a full sister to Aidan O’Brien’s Royal Ascot-winning juvenile Arizona, projects a ground-saving trip from post 2 with Junior Alvarado.

Wesley Ward’s The Mackem Bullet, third in the Valley View (G3) in her first start since capturing the Appalachian (G2) in April, is entitled to move forward. Post 14 is a concern, however, for the classy filly who’d missed narrowly in last season’s Cheveley Park (G1) and Lowther (G2).

Several other Valley View alumnae hope to improve in the Mrs. Revere. Hard Legacy had earned her signature win over this course in the Regret (G3) and followed up with a rallying fifth in the Del Mar Oaks (G1). Thus she has license to put her Valley View eighth behind her. German import Dalika was fifth at Keeneland, but had missed by only a head in Saratoga’s Riskaverse. Valley View sixth Wildlife now adds blinkers, and judging by her prior second to Princesa Carolina in the Dueling Grounds Oaks, has claims. Winter Sunset, 10th in the Valley View, has a trio of Grade 3 placings to her credit including the Regret. The daughter of Tapit and Winter Memories was convincing in the Indiana Grand S. in her previous outing, and the respective second through fourth that day – Amandrea, Winning Envelope, and She’sonthewarpath – renew rivalry.

Proud Emma exits a Churchill allowance win on the main track. If adverse weather rains this off the turf, the Miller filly would loom large in light of her fourths in the Gazelle (G2) and Eight Belles (G2). Rounding out the cast are recent allowance winners Delta’s Kingdom and Passionof the Nile along with Julia’s Ready, a More Than Ready half to Tom’s d’Etat.