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Neck ‘n Neck Prepares for Jim Dandy

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Photo: NYRA

Neck ‘n Neck, who scored his first stakes victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on June 16, will breeze tomorrow morning after the break in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy, said trainer Ian Wilkes.

 

Slow to mature, the Flower Alley colt had only a maiden victory on his resume through his first eight starts, but has registered back-to-back triple digit Beyer Speed Figures in his two most recent starts, an allowance victory over older horses on May 10 [101] and the 7 ¼-length Matt Winn victory [102] over Stealcase and Macho Macho.

 

“I gave him a little break after [a fifth in] the Florida Derby,” said Wilkes, who trains Neck ‘n Neck for A. Stevens Miles, Jr. “It’s just maturity; he had to learn how to run against these horses. He was eligible for the optional allowance and he finally figured it out. He’s been doing things easier ever since.

 

“Early on, he’d make a lot of mistakes in races,” added Wilkes. “He’d be there, and then all of a sudden he’d drop back and wouldn’t pass horses. Then suddenly he’d come running at the end of the race. In the Sam F. Davis he was last at the quarter-pole, and then he came flying on the outside and got beaten two lengths.”

 

Wilkes said Leandro Goncalves, who is 3-for-3 aboard Neck ‘n Neck, will ride on Saturday.

 

Joining Neck ‘n Neck on Monday’s worktab will be stablemate Fort Larned, prepping for the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational on August 4.

 

The 4-year-old E Dubai colt, a three-length winner over fellow Whitney contender Successful Dan in the Grade 3 Cornhusker last time out, also owns a victory in the Grade 3 Skip Away and a second to Successful Dan in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 4.

 

“Usually, the handicap division isn’t that strong, but this year there are so many good older horses,” said Wilkes. “I have to think Fort Larned fits there. In the Alysheba he just got beat by Successful Dan and beat Mucho Macho Man [by six lengths], who came back and ran a very good race in winning the Suburban. He’s improving. I’ve figured him out, he’s figured me out, we’ve figured each other out.”

 

 

 

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Neck ‘n Neck breezed 5f in :59.76 (4/39) at Saratoga on 7-23.

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