The Clark is one of the most historic races in the long and illustrious life of the fabled Churchill Downs. When the ponies go to post for the 147th running on November 26 the books may have a little more to add to the story of this edition.
Maxfield is a powerful four-year old that has been more than just good beneath the Twin Spires. Having recorded four wins in four lifetime starts at the Louisville Oval, a fifth would land him in a place no other runner has roamed.
Earlier in 2021, this son of Street Sense convincingly captured the grade 2 Alysheba Stakes on Kentucky Oaks day. On June 26, he fantastically finished first in the grade 2 Stephen Foster. A win in the grade 1 Clark on November 26 would make Maxfield the first runner to romp home first in all three of Churchill’s biggest races for older horses.
A strapping son of Street Sense, one of the Downs most dynamic runners ever, Maxfield could walk in his father’s footsteps as a record setter at the nation’s most famous Thoroughbred racing venue. In 2006 the Carl Nafzger trained Street Sense won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill in as dominating a fashion as any before or since. The following Spring, Nafzger and his prized colt ridden by Calvin Borel became the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to also win the Kentucky Derby.
“I think Maxfield is a very talented horse that has great tactical speed”, says Nafzger, who also won the Kentucky Derby in 1990 with Unbridled. “It’s always nice to see a horse you trained succeed in the breeding aspect of the sport. Street Sense is a very special horse to us and we love seeing his off springs succeed.”
Maxfield has indeed enjoyed a successful career to date, but it has also had a few bumps in the road as well. A powerful score in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October of 2019 put him in the fast lane towards the 2020 Kentucky Derby. However the injury bug bit and despite a delayed Derby, trainer Brendan Walsh saw the bigger picture and did not push his prized colt.
A healthy and fully recovered Maxfield has enjoyed his busiest year in 2021. After tasting defeat for the first time in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, Walsh wheeled him back for the Alysheba score on April 30 and followed with the Foster win. Two starts in New York saw second place finishes behind Knicks Go (Whitney) and Art Collector (Woodward).
“I am absolutely proud of what this horse has done this year”, says Walsh. “He has ran well every time out and has never been worse than third in his career. He started off very well at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana and then we got a bit ambitious with the trip to Santa Anita. His runs at Churchill were very nice and we think he ran well in New York. Finishing second to a horse like Knicks Go (Whitney) is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. The Woodward didn’t play out exactly as planned, but Art Collector ran a great race.”
Now the crafty Irish conditioner turns his attention to the Clark. Scheduled as the final career start for his mighty Maxfield, recent works say he is ready to do what he has always done, run well. Facing a potential field that will contain hard-knocking three-year-olds Midnight Bourbon and King Fury along with accomplished older stakes winners Code of Honor and Happy Saver, Walsh understands his runner needs to bring his best.
“It will be good to get him back on his home patch”, says Walsh. “He has obviously performed well here and loves the surface, but he is certainly not a one track horse. We have been very lucky to have a horse like him in our barn and look forward to a good effort in the Clark. The likes of him don’t come around that often.”
The Clark is the centerpiece of the 12 race black Friday card at Churchill Downs on November 26. First post is slated for 1 pm eastern time.