Horse Racing

First Mission, Il Miracolo Face Older Foes in Clark

A pair of 3-year-olds top the field for one of the last major prizes of the year in the Nov. 24 Clark Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. The $600,000, 1 1/8-mile Clark, downgraded this year from grade 1 status, attracted the highly-touted First Mission  and the resilient Il Miracolo , a narrow runner-up of the Fayette Stakes (G2) in his last outing.

First Mission lines up for the Clark off a game allowance optional claiming score against older horses at Keeneland. It was the first start in nearly six months for the promising son of Street Sense  , who was scratched from the Preakness Stakes (G1) due to an ankle injury. The colt had served notice that April with a gutsy victory over Woody Stephens (G1) winner Arabian Lion   in Keeneland‘s Lexington Stakes (G3).

A homebred for Godolphin and trained by Brad Cox, who captured the Clark in 2018 with Leofric  , the lightly-raced First Mission could use the Clark as a springboard to an ambitious winter campaign for his high-profile connections.

“The Clark is a solid race each year,” Cox said. “He’s a horse we always thought highly of and I’m thankful for Godolphin for allowing us to be patient to let him develop.”

Luis Saez is back aboard First Mission, who carries 118 pounds, receiving a weight break from his older rivals.

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“I think he got a lot of seasoning mentally out of that allowance race,” Cox said. “You don’t see horses overcome that type of trouble and win, especially at Keeneland. I think he’s coming into this race a better horse and we’re excited to see how he can progress.”

Alexandres’ Il Miracolo has endured a stiff campaign so far in 2023, facing the starting block ten times for trainer Antonio Sano. The Gun Runner   colt has proven to be a late bloomer like his sire, with his speed figures improving in the second part of the year. After a breakthrough performance when winning the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing | Track Profile”>Parx Racing, Il Miracolo was third in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at 25-1 and then ran second by a scant head in the Fayette behind O’Connor .

Il Miracolo #9 ridden by Luis Saez went extremely wide but still won the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (GIII) on August 22, 2023 at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA. The three-year-old son of Gun Runner is trained by Antonio Sano for Eduardo Soto. Photo by Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO.
Photo: Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO

Il Miracolo wins the Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing

Current Churchill leading rider Tyler Gaffalione has the call.

Among the older horses to watch include Film Star  and Trademark . New York shipper Film Star, trained by Linda Rice, exits a fourth-place finish in the Oct. 28 Forty Niner Stakes (G2). One of the likely pacesetters in Friday’s race, Film Star stretches back out to 1 1/8 miles in the Clark after failing to maintain his speed in the mile of the Forty Niner. A two-time winner over the 1 1/8-mile trip, he was second to Zandon   over this distance two starts back in the Woodward Stakes (G2).

Trademark wins the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes on Saturday, July 8, 2023 at Horseshoe Indianapolis
Photo: Coady Photography

Trademark wins the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis

Things to Know

•    Gasoline , a 5-year-old trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, makes his stakes debut in the Clark after exiting a career-best performance when defeating opposing Giant Game  by 5 1/4 lengths in an allowance optional claimer at Churchill

•    The last 3-year-old to win the Clark was
Gun Runner   in 2016.



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