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  and the 7 ¼-length Matt Winn victory  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
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.”