The 2013 Travers Stakes winner—three-year-old Will Take Charge—enters Friday's Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs as the second choice with opening odds of 9-5. He will be ridden by jockey Luis Saez.
The event, first run in 1875, was won last year by Shackleford in his final career race. It will be run at a distance of 1-1/8 miles.
Although the D. Wayne Lucas-trained colt is coming off four straight impressive performances and most recently finished second in the Breeders' Cup Classic by a nose to Mucho Macho Man, the son of Unbridled's Song appears ripe for the taking against a scheduled field of nine when the starting gate opens in the $550,000 Grade One contest.
Not only is Will Take Charge facing stiff competition that stacks up well against him in The Clark, the law of averages state that after four big races (and the full Triple Crown series) he is due for an off race.
It is the proverbial bounce.
Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, opens as the morning line 8-5 favorite. Look for him to rebound from his sub-par ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic with a performance that could land him back in the winner's circle.
However, others can defeat Will Take Charge (and Game On Dude) as well, which sets the stage for potentially lucrative exotic wagering opportunities.
Bourbon Courage (8-1), ridden by the electric Churchill Downs specialist Corey Lanerie, is due for a forward move in his second race back following a six-month layoff.
A consistent performer, Bourbon Courage has run fast enough in the past to hit the wire first should he fire his best shot or hit the board even if he does not win.
The dark-horse threat to crash the party is Our Double Play (20-1). Ridden by Francisco Torres and trained by Philip Bauer, he holds a huge pace edge and comes in light at 113 pounds.
Bauer has won three of four races (75 percent) at Churchill Downs over the past year. Simply put, Our Double Play is a huge threat to hit the board and possibly even win.
Easter Gift (12-1), ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by the white-hot Chad Brown, is another longer entry with a solid chance to make some noise. Prior to his last race—a fifth-place finish where he lost by 2-3/4 lengths—he finished first or second in five straight.
Most importantly, Easter Gift ran fast enough in a victory at Penn National at the same distance to make him ballpark competitive for win honors in The Clark.
In summary, I see the big four for the exotics as Game On Dude, Bourbon Courage, Easter Gift and Our Double Play.
The Clark Handicap Field
1. Game On Dude (8-5)
2. Finnegans Wake (20-1)
3. Bourbon Courage (8-1)
4. Golden Ticket (9-2)
5. Prayer for Relief (12-1)
6. Easter Gift (12-1)
7. Will Take Charge (9-5)
8. Our Double Play (20-1)
9. Jaguar Paw (20-1)