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Einstein and Julien Leparoux get congratulated after winning the Clark Handicap.
The Thanksgiving weekend stakes action continued at Churchill Downs on Friday with the $400,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (G2), one of the highlights of the Fall Meet featuring some of the top older horses of the east. A field of seven (after Timber Reserve scratched) faced the starter in this 1 1/8 mile main track feature, with Commentator sent off as the overwhelming 2-5 choice, coming into the race off consecutive wins in the Whitney and Massachusetts Handicaps in his last starts. In to challenge the Nick Zito stable star included 5-1 second choice Einstein, winless since the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in May and fifth in the Arlington Million last out, and 7-1 third choice Magna Graduate, winner of the Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs on October 26. Participants and spectators again enjoyed ideal weather, clear skies and temperatures in the mid 40's.
Einstein takes the lead from Commentator in the stretch with Delightful Kiss in the background starting his rally.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Einstein Leparoux 11.80 5.20 2.60 1 Delightful Kiss Borel 10.80 3.80 4 Commentator Velazquez 2.10 Winning Time: 1:49.79 $2 Exacta 3-1 118.40 $2 Trifecta 3-1-4 279.20 $2 Superfecta 3-1-4-2 865.00
Left: Einstein in the winner's circle with trainer Helen Pitts on the far left. Pitts said, "To be able to win a stake like that means the world to me but to get a graded stake on the dirt for him is super. It was kind of my main objective coming in here. He was second in a Grade 1 in the Stephen Foster. But to win a graded stake on the dirt for him, he deserves it more than anybody out there because I've never had a horse that loves his job and loves to train and loves to run as much as he does. When he turned for home, I knew he'd dig deep down inside to find all he could to get there. He's a very special horse."
Right: Einstein parades before heading to the winner's circle.
Left: Einstein in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey Julien Leparoux said, "I knew I had to stay close to Commentator and he broke sharp. The plan was to be right behind him and to not give him too much to do. I just kind of eased up a little bit on the outside. I just ran behind him all the way. When I asked him, he stuck his head in front of him and we were gone. It was done."
Right: The top three finishers, Commentator, Einstein, and Delightful Kiss, in the post parade from left to right.
Left: Second place finisher Delightful Kiss returns after the race. His jockey Calvin Borel said, "I wish the other horse (Timber Reserve) hadn't scratched. I think he would have added a little more pace. But (Delightful Kiss) ran good, he ran his race. He ran a huge race, no complaints. This horse is doing good." His trainer Pete Anderson said, "He (Calvin Borel) gave him a lot to do. I like the guy's riding and all that, but he just gave him a little too much to do. But it was a big effort. At one stage of the game he had to be close to 20 lengths off the lead, I would think. Unless my eyes are bad, I would say he was close to that. When (Timber Reserve) scratched, it changed the complexion of the race."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Commentator in the post parade. His jockey John Velazquez said, "He struggled with the track. He was good the first part of the race, but he got to the 1/2 mile pole and I tried to encourage him, but it seemed like he was skipping, he was slipping and sliding a little bit. That's the first time he ever felt that he was not getting hold of the track, and he's been everywhere. But today he just struggled with it. I got after him, but he just went through the motions. He didn't do like he can."
His trainer Nick Zito said, "It could just be the effect of a long year for him, the way he is. He puts everything into everything he does. You know, Helen (Pitts) did a good job with Einstein coming off a 3 month layoff. He's a nice horse that finished second to Curlin. But John (Velazquez) said Commentator was just skipping. He wasn't getting a good hold (of the track). When he left there I was happy, but down the backside he just couldn't accelerate and get away, and I knew something was wrong. He just wasn't himself."
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