Trainer Ian Wilkes declared Neck ‘n Neck
ready for next Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Travers after the Grade 2 Jim
Dandy runner-up breezed five furlongs in 1:00.09 on Monday.
did it well in hand. He never extended himself,” said Wilkes. “He just floated
around there, finished up down the lane good, galloped out good, pulled up
happy, walked off the track happy. I’m happy.”
Neck ‘n Neck finished fifth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis, fourth in the Grade 2
Fountain of Youth, and fifth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, Wilkes dropped him
into an entry-level allowance on May 10 at Churchill Downs. The colt won by 6 ½
lengths, then captured Churchill’s Grade 3 Matt Winn by 7 ¼ lengths on June 16
and was second to Alpha in the Jim Dandy on July 28.
expressed gratitude for how owner A. Stevens Miles, Jr. put no pressure on him
to make the Triple Crown with Neck ‘n Neck and was content to focus on races in
the second half of the year.
a grind to get here,” Wilkes said. “You have to keep them sound, healthy, happy,
and on top of their game. It takes a good horseman to do that. Sometimes you get
too caught up in [the Triple Crown]. That’s the good thing with Mr. Miles. The
first thing he said to me was, ‘If you can’t make it, no problem. Don’t do it.’
So there was no pressure on me when my horse wasn’t quite ready. I was ready to
back off and point for this.”
1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, Neck ‘n Neck chased Alpha, who was unpressured on the
lead, to finish second by two lengths. Wilkes believes Neck ‘n Neck could
encounter a more favorable pace scenario in the 1 ¼-mile Travers.
can be wherever he wants, and that’s the good thing,” said Wilkes. “We have a
smart rider in Leandro [Goncalves] who knows the horse and he understands him,
and that’s good. It depends on how fast they go, but with Hansen coming it could
change the pace scenario. I think we’ll see a little more pace than we did last
time. It could be a different track, a different race. And it all depends on
post position, too, as to what tactics you use.”
the race is drawn, Wilkes says he will focus on Neck ‘n Neck, not his possible
“There’s only one horse I can control – my own,” said Wilkes. “If you
start worrying about what other people are doing – I have no control – you only
give yourself ulcers.”
on the worktab for the Travers was Five Sixteen, who breezed four
furlongs in 49.05 seconds. In this two most recent starts, Five Sixteen was
fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 9 and second to Street Life in the
Curlin on July 27.
matured and he’s coming around the right way,” said Dominick Schettino, who
trains Five Sixteen for MeB Racing Stables. “He’s physically going the right