The Grade I, $500,000 Clark Handicap is the feature on “Black Friday” at Churchill Downs. A field of nine will be asked to go 1 1/8-miles over the main track in this prestigious event. Scheduled as the 11th of 12 races on the day, post time for the Clark is 5:56 p.m. EST. Don’t forget to play FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game all weekend long!
#8 HONORABLE DUTY (5-1) will be the top selection despite flopping last time out in Keeneland’s Fayette Stakes. That race was contested over a sloppy track, something HONORABLE DUTY has not excelled over in his career (3-0-1-0). This Brendan Walsh trainee had hit the board in every start this year prior to the Fayette and won three of the four starts he made on a fast track. The lone loss came in the Stephen Foster to Gun Runner.
HONORABLE DUTY loves Churchill, as evidenced by his 6-3-2-0 record over the course. That includes a romping score in the Lukas Classic two starts back. He can win from just about anywhere on the track, which helps his and jockey Corey Lanerie’s chances immensely.
#1 HOPPERTUNITY (3-1) starts in the Clark Handicap for the fourth time in his career. He won the 2014 rendition, placed in 2015 and ran fourth a year ago. Despite the diminishing returns, this six-year-old multi-millionaire looks like a must-use. He clearly needed his last start, the Comma To The Top Stakes, as he was laid off after the Dubai World Cup. He was a decent second to a horse in Top of the Game that ran the race of his life. HOPPERTUNITY is a solid 9-2-4-2 going 1 1/8-miles and is drilling sensationally for Bob Baffert. Florent Geroux picks up the mount.
#9 DIVERSIFY (5-2, morning-line favorite) should have the lead to himself under Irad Ortiz Jr. However, he still has to answer some class questions after winning what looked like a weak renewal of the Jockey Club Gold Cup off back-to-back state-bred stakes wins. There’s probably a reason his connections decided to bypass the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but he’s hard to leave out entirely.
#7 THE PLAYER (6-1) is likely to be a pace presence as well under Calvin Borel. He ran a career-best in the Fayette last time out, but it came over a sloppy track. However, he’s run well at Churchill in the past (5-2-1-1).
The play: $2 exacta 1,8/1,7,8,9, $2 exacta box 1/8 ($16)
DFJ analysis: Meet-leading pilot Corey Lanerie looks like a solid investment on Clark Handicap day. He has 10 mounts on the 12-race card, including top preference HONORABLE DUTY in the feature event. Of those 10 assignments, all but one are 6-1 or below in odds.
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