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Racing expert Sweet Lou Monaco's picks for Friday's racing at Churchill Downs

After a much-needed sleep from the Thanksgiving meal the day before, the long Thanksgiving weekend continues today with the 145th running of the $600,000 Grade 1 Clark Stakes for 3-year-olds and up over 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill Downs dirt. The full field of 12 will go to gate for race 11 of the 12-race card with an approximate post time of 5:56 p.m. ET.

#2, Tom’s d’Etat, Joel Rosario, 8-5

The morning-line favorite and deservedly so, Tom’s d’Etat comes into today looking to become the first horse to sweep both the Fayette and Clark in 10 years since Breeders’ Cup champ Blame did it in November 2010. He has won two of his last three starts including the Grade 2 Fayette by a commanding 4 ¼ lengths over today’s entrant Mr Freeze back on Oct. 26 at Keeneland. For that performance, he posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, the fifth straight race that he has earned a triple-digit fig. This will be his 7th race at CD (2-2-1) and he certainly has run well here. Joel Rosario is back aboard for his second straight start for trainer Al Stall, Jr. It would be tough not to pick him, although there are some solid horses in this field. I’m not going against. The pick.

#10, Bravazo, Luis Saez, 8-1

Runner-up to Triple Crown winner Justify in the 2018 Preakness, this will be only his second start this year and the 18th of his career (3-4-3). This will be his first start in 10 months after undergoing knee surgery in March and since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26. He is seeking his first win in 11 starts, since a nose win over today’s entrant Snapper Sinclair in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes here on Feb. 17. Luis Saez gets the mount for the second straight time for Hall-of-Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who is seeking his third Clark triumph having done so with Surfside (2000) and Will Take Charge (2013). This will be Bravazo’s 12th-straight graded stakes start. You have to love the experience and we will see what happens off the long layoff. I think he will run well as indicated by his recent workouts. Runner-up.

#9, Mr Freeze, Robby Albarado, 8-1

Mr Freeze has been hot as of late as he makes his fifth start this year (1-2-0) and 10th of his career (4-3-0). He was a distant second to Tom’s d’Etat in the Fayette in his last (see Tom’s d’Etat analysis), but prior to that, he won by 1 ½ lengths in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill on Sept. 28. He also has a Grade 3 West Virginia Derby win to his credit by a whopping eight lengths over today’s entrant Draft Pick on Aug. 4, 2018. He certainly has it in him. Robby Albarado gets the ride in his third straight mount for trainer Dale Romans. I would not be surprised if he sneaks this out. Contender.

#8, Owendale, Florent Geroux, 10-1

Owendale has been lights out this year as he makes his ninth start (4-0-1). Prior to a 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 in his last, he has won two of his last three and three of his last five, highlighted by a Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby win at Remington Park by 1 ¾ lengths on Sept. 29. Florent Geroux gets in the irons for the second time in three starts for trainer Brad Cox, who last year won the Clark by a neck over today’s entrant Bravazo.

PICKS: 2-10-9-8

By Lou Monaco


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