Sunny skies scrapped trainer Ian Wilkes’ latest hope to find a prep race for Neck ‘n Neck
, so the 4-year-old colt had to settle for a sharp five-furlong work on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Wilkes has been trying to find a prep race for A. Stevens Miles son of Flower Alley to prepare him for a planned run in the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Friday, Nov. 29. He has entered the colt in several races, but none have attracted sufficient entries.
Neck n’ Neck was entered in Saturday’s second race, an allowance optional claiming race at a mile on grass just in case wet weather forced that race to be moved to the main track, but Wilkes scratched the colt when sunshine and an anticipated high temperature reading of 62 ensured that the race would stay on the grass.
With today’s race off the table, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. climbed in the saddle aboard Neck ‘n Neck and worked him five furlongs in a brisk 1:00.80, which was the sixth-fastest move of 49 at the distance.
It was a good and useful move, but Wilkes said he needs more to have Neck ‘n Neck ready for the Clark – a race that could attract the likes of Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) runner-up and Travers (GI) winner Will Take Charge, Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude and other accomplished stars that include Windswept, runner-up to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in Churchill Downs’ inaugural Homecoming Classic, and Bourbon Courage, third in 2012 Clark.
“You can’t run against those horses without the right preparation,” Wilkes said.
Neck ‘n Neck would certainly be a worthy candidate for the Clark. His lifetime record stands at 15-5-2-1 with earnings of $687,852.
Neck ’n Neck closed 2012 with a rush by scoring back-to-back wins in the Indiana Derby (GII) and Churchill Downs’ Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), but a training injury shortly after the latter derailed hopes for a run in the Clark Handicap. Wilkes finally got Neck ‘n Neck back to the races with a late-running third-place finish in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Downs on Oct. 5, but efforts find another prep for this year’s Clark have resulted in nothing but frustration.
So the next few days will be anxious ones for Wilkes, who will be watching for possible opportunities for a prep race at Churchill Downs or another track.
“The horse is doing good,” Wilkes said. “We just hope we get the opportunity to run.”