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Neck ‘n Neck Cruises in Matt Winn

A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s Neck ‘n Neck ran away from the field in deep stretch to win Saturday’s $107,100 Matt Winn (Grade III) by a record 7 ¼ lengths over Stealcase. Macho Macho was a neck back in third, while Right to Vote, the 9-5 favorite finished fourth.

The Matt Winn, which honors the famed Churchill Downs president and general manager (1902-49) that served as the driving force of the Downs and his beloved Kentucky Derby, was the first of four graded stakes races run under the lights as part of Churchill Downs’ special “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing program.

Neck ‘n Neck, ridden by Leandro Goncalves and trained by Ian Wilkes, ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:43.72.

The Kentucky-bred son of Flower Alley settled in hand early on and took closer order after the first half mile as Right to Vote led the field of five 3-year-olds through fractions of :24.36, :48.97 and 1:13.12. Neck ‘n Neck drew even four-wide on the far turn and shook clear of his rivals en route to a dominating romp.

Neck ‘n Neck paid $10, $4.20 and $3 as the 4-1 fourth wagering choice. Stealcase returned $3.60 and $2.80. Macho Macho paid $3.20.

Neck ‘n Neck won for the third time in 10 career starts. His first victory against graded stakes company was worth $66,402, which pushed his career earnings to $196,772.


Ian Wilkes, trainer of Neck ‘n Neck, winner: “Honestly, I expected him to run very well. But did I expect him to win that easily? No.”

Q: He loves this track (three wins in five starts) “Yes he does. Can we just race him here all summer?”

Q: What’s next? “It’s something that Mr. Miles and I we’ll have to talk about and see which way we want to go. We’re just going to enjoy this win tonight and then we’ll sit down and work out a plan.”

Leandro Goncalves, jockey on Neck ‘n Neck, winner: “This horse has a lot of talent. He had been training well in the morning and he ran big today. He’s a nice horse. I felt like I had a ton of horse the whole way. When I finally asked him, he just took over and drove away.”

Shaun Bridgmohan, jockey on Stealcase, second: “I got caught behind the eight-ball. They went pretty slow and I was behind there with no pace to run at. I thought he ran a tremendous race to overcome a slow pace and finish as well as he did.   

“It never unfolded for us like I thought it would. Leaving there I took a little hold hoping that they would settle, and when they went so slow and backed it up that much, he wanted to really grab the bridle and he never really had a fair shot in the first part. So I thought he ran pretty good to have overcome all of that.”

Julien Leparoux, jockey on Macho Macho, third: “He ran good. It was his first time around two turns, and around the second turn it looked like he struggled a little bit, but he came running at the end. So I just think he’ll probably be better next time and he probably learned something. But he ran good today.”



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