The 144th running of the Clark Handicap was a stirring renewal of one of the Fall’s most historic races. Contested beneath the twin spires at the iconic Churchill Downs, this grade 1 event features a half-million dollar purse and the big money brought out some hot competition. Two runners that had recently competed in the Breeders’ Cup (Seeking the Soul, Bravazzo,) were there, but it was a courageous run by a blossoming son of Candy Ride that had the giblets jumping all the way to the wire.

Leofric is a beautifully marked gray horse that is trained by the fast-rising Brad Cox. Four wins, a second, and a third in six starts this year coming into the Clark told us he is a horse that is always right there. Searching for an elusive grade 1 win, his conditioner knew this was a good spot for him and his charge did not disappoint. Running just off a solid early pace, the Fric surged to the front as the runners turned for home. With the hard-knocking Bravazzo all up in his grill, the Cox trainee did what he has done all year and continued to battle. Running almost stride for stride, Leofric refused to let his challenger past. As the finish drew closer, the crowd frenzy built to a crescendo. Like Rocky and Apollo Creed, the two warriors traded power punches inside the final furlong. Within the shadow of the finish pole, Leofric stubbornly stuck his neck in front as he crossed the wire.

“We knew coming in he was ready to run because he had told us that,” says Cox. “He walked into the paddock on the muscle and he always is willing to battle. He’s a fighter that has really come into his own in recent months.”

Because the Clark is a grade 1 event which typically draws the best competition in the Thoroughbred game, Leofric has placed himself in conversation with other top older horses. Cox had not won a grade 1 event as a trainer until this year, but with super filly Monomoy Girl and now Leofric in his barn, the Louisville native has eyes on continued success at this level.

“Anytime you win a grade 1 it is always good,” says Cox. “We are really proud of Leofric for how he has come along and he has become a really nice race horse with a lot of courage.” (Photo by Coady)