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
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.
MATT WINN QUOTES
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.”