Classic flop Game On Dude back in action
Preview: USA, Friday 10.35pm GMT
Churchill Downs: Clark Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+
IT'S the Thanksgiving weekend holiday programme in the States, where Friday's action is marked by a late-season highlight as Breeders' Cup flop Game On Dude bids to redeem himself in a clash with Classic runner-up Will Take Charge in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Will Take Charge (D Wayne Lukas/Luis Saez) has fought his way to the top of the three-year-old ladder in the second half of the season with victories in the Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby before just failing to peg back Mucho Macho Man with his late charge in a thrilling Breeders' Cup Classic four weeks ago.
For the second year running, Game On Dude (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith) was sent off favourite for North America's richest race, only to produce another dismal effort, finishing ninth of 11 after being unable to dominate at Santa Anita, his home track.
Now the six-year-old crosses country in a bid for his eighth Grade 1 victory in this $500,000 contest, where an inside draw could play to his strengths as a front-runner.
He gives just 3lb to Will Take Charge, for whom victory over his elders would probably sew up the US three-year-old championship in a muddling season.
"I think he's already sealed that," said Lukas. "I would rather take the position that the Clark is a significant race with Grade 1 status and a nice purse, and an opportunity to showcase our horse again.
"I almost wish there was more to the season, because he is good right now. It's a prestigious race in many ways. It's a Grade 1 and if we could get another Grade 1 against older competition around two turns, I think it would be significant."
A field of nine also includes last year's Travers Stakes dead-heater Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek/Robby Albarado), second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last time, and Super Derby winner Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder/Corey Lanerie).
Coral: 2 Game On Dude, Will Take Charge, 100-30 Golden Ticket, 8 Bourbon Courage, 14 Easter Gift, 16 Prayer For Relief, 25 Finnegans Wake, Our Double Play, 40 Jaguar Paw.
Ladbrokes: 6-4 Game On Dude, 5-2 Will Take Charge, 5 Golden Ticket, 8 Bourbon Courage, 16 Prayer For Relief, Easter Gift, 20 Our Double Play, 33 Finnegans Wake, Jaguar Paw.