Derby (Grade II) winner Neck ’n Neck is the 120-pound starting high
weight for his first race against older horses when he headlines Friday’s 20th running of the Grade
III, $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Stevens Miles Jr.’s
homebred Neck ’n Neck landed post position No. 2 for the one-turn mile affair.
He is one of five graded stakes winners in the field of eight 3-year-olds and
off a length victory in the $513,600 Indiana Derby three weeks ago at Hoosier
Park, Neck ’n Neck will use Friday’s race as a steppingstone to the Grade I,
$400,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Friday, Nov. 24.
Flower Alley colt has shown an affinity for the Churchill Downs oval with three
wins from five starts, including a 7 ¼-length romp in the Matt Winn (GIII) in
June. Overall, he has won four of his 13 starts and $609,776.
will ride the 3-year-old colt for trainer Ian Wilkes. One day later, the
two will team again in an attempt to land the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic
(GI) at Santa Anita with Whitney Handicap (GI) champ Fort Larned, the
5-1 co-second choice on the morning line.
’n Neck’s stiffest competition could be multiple Grade II winner Dominus,
a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike trained by Todd Pletcher who returns to
the main track after two tries on turf, including a victory over Data Link
in the Bernard Baruch (GII) at Saratoga. As a 3-year-old, he won the Dwyer
(GII) at Belmont Park by 1 ¾ lengths.
entered is 3-year-old Fort Loudon, who won the Carry Back (GIII) in July
and finished a half-length back of Willy Beamin in the Grade I King’s
Bishop (GI) at Saratoga. He is trained by Hall of Famer and two-time Kentucky
Derby winner Nick Zito.
Ack Ack Handicap field, from the rail out (with jockey and assigned weight): Zimmer
(Victor Lebron, 116 pounds); Neck ’n Neck (Hernandez Jr., 120); Stealcase
(Miguel Mena, 116); Dominus (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118); Grand Berry-ARG
(Joe Rocco Jr., 116); Seruni (Jon Court, 114); Good Lord (Gabriel
Saez, 116); and Fort Loudon (Jesus Castanon, 118).
Ack Ack was expected to include multiple Grade II winner Aikenite but
the 5-year-old re-injured an ankle, according to Dogwood Stable
president Cot Campbell, and was not entered.
Ack Ack will be run as Race 9 at 4:38 p.m. (all times Eastern) on a 10-race
program that begins at 12:40 p.m. and concludes at 5:08 p.m. The card also
includes a $52,000 first-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles
on the Matt Winn Turf Course and a pair of maiden special weight races for
2-year-olds: an open race at one mile on turf (Race 3) and a six-furlong sprint
for fillies (Race 7).
Ack Ack honors the 1969 Derby Trial winner, who won the mile race in 1:34 2/5 –
a stakes record that stands today. At age 5, he became America’s most dominant
horse, winning seven straight graded stakes on dirt and turf over a variety of
distances under the care of legendary trainer Charlie Whittingham. In
turn, he was crowned the 1971 Horse of the Year, Champion Older Male and