First Mission Looks to Get Back on Track in Clark

First Mission | Coady

For those eschewing shopping in favor of racing on Black Friday, Churchill Downs obliges with a pair of graded events, while Aqueduct and Del Mar offer graded stakes of their own on either coast.

   'TDN Rising Star' First Mission (Street Sense) looked poised to join the upper echelon of the sophomore class with his win in the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. in April, but the Godolphin homebred was knocked out of the GI Preakness S. and was sidelined until returning with a gritty allowance tally at Keeneland Oct. 14. The colt, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will be looking to get back on track when he faces nine rivals in the GII Clark S. at Churchill Downs Friday. He would become the second straight Godolphin homebred to win the Clark, following Proxy (Tapit)'s victory a year ago.

“The Clark is a solid race each year,” said trainer Brad Cox, who will attempt to win his second-career Clark with First Mission. “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.”

First Mission was forced to overcome a troubled trip in his return victory at Keeneland last month and Cox thinks the education the colt received in that race will help him moving forward.

“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.”

Il Miracolo (Gun Runner), the only other 3-year-old in the field, won the Aug. 22 GIII Smarty Jones S. before a third-place effort in the Sept. 23 GI Pennsylvania Derby. He was beaten just a head when second in the Oct. 28 GII Fayette S. last time out.

There have been 57 3-year-olds to win the Clark, but the last one to do it was Gun Runner in 2016.

The Friday card at Churchill Downs also includes the GII Mrs. Revere S. Miacomet Farm's Heavenly Sunday (Candy Ride {Arg}) is the 7-2 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/16-mile turf event. The dark bay filly won the GII Edgewood S. over that same course and trip in May and comes off a runner-up effort in the Oct. 27 GIII Valley View S.

Make the Boys Wink (More Than Ready) makes a quick turnaround from sales ring to racetrack Friday. The filly, 6-1 on the morning line, took a Churchill allowance over the Mrs. Revere's distance Nov. 4 for Phoenix Thoroughbreds and trainer Brendan Walsh and was then supplemented to the Fasig-Tipton November sale. After selling for $450,000 Nov. 7, the 3-year-old filly reappears for J and J Stables and trainer Robbie Medina.

In other graded stakes action on the holiday weekend, Del Mar will host the GII Hollywood Turf Cup S. with eight older horses tackling 1 1/2 miles of the oceanside oval's turf course. Trainer Chad Brown sends European import Francesco Clemente (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) to the West Coast for owner Peter Brant. The 4-year-old is coming off a 1 3/8-mile allowance victory over the Aqueduct turf Oct. 19.

Of the local contenders, trainer George Papaprodromou saddles Balladeer (Distorted Humor), who won the 1 1/4-mile GII John Henry Turf Classic at Santa Anita Oct. 1. The 4-year-old set the pace in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf before fading to seventh last time out Nov. 4.

Rounding out Friday's graded stakes action is the GIII Fall Highweight H. at Aqueduct, where morning-line favorite Durante (Distorted Humor) shoulders 134 pounds while facing five rivals in the throwback event. The 4-year-old gelding is a winner of five of his last six starts, including the Oct. 27 GIII Bold Ruler S.

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