Off Duty Trying For Third Straight Win in Ack Ack

Off Duty Trying For Third Straight Win in Ack Ack
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Off Duty comes into the Ack Ack off a win in the Phoenix (gr. III)

Looking for his third consecutive victory and fourth stakes win of the year, 4-year-old Off Duty hopes to keep the momentum going in the $200,000 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.

A one-mile event for 3-year-olds and up on the main track, the Ack Ack will be contested by a field of eight.

The one-mile test will be a new challenge for Off Duty, who has made seven starts this year, all 6 1/2 furlongs or shorter. Of those seven, four have been wins and only one ended without a top-three finish. A neck loss in the Aug. 25 Arlington Sprint Handicap is all that kept the Yes It's True colt from perfection in his last four efforts.

Most recently, Off Duty took the Oct. 6 Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland by a half-length at odds of 13-1, his first career graded stakes triumph. Before that he won the Sept. 15 Marfa Stakes on the Turfway Park Polytrack by a length in front-running fashion.

Off Duty, out of the Honour and Glory mare Ms North Carolina, is trained by Lynn Whiting. He is owned by the partnership of John Pucek, Brett Setzer, Robert Edwards, and David Fogg, and was bred in Florida by Helen Marie Napolitano. Larry Melancon will ride from post two.

Another horse having a nice campaign is 5-year-old Istan. Bred in Kentucky, Istan is owned by Darpat S. L. Stables and trained by Bill Mott.

Although Istan was overmatched in his latest test, the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland, that effort can be excused. On the main track or Polytrack, the Gone West horse has been fine, winning four stakes in 2007. Prior to the Shadwell, he captured the Aug. 11 Governors Handicap at Ellis Park and most recently, the Sept. 8 Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (gr. III) by 3 1/2 lengths.

Istan, who started his career racing on the turf in France, is eight-for-18 lifetime and has earned more than $300,000. Kent Desormeaux will get the mount.

It remains to be seen whether 5-year-old Sun King, a former Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starter, can return to his 2006 form, when he placed in six of eight starts (all but two in graded stakes competition). This year Sun King has been winless in five efforts with just two races in the money. In his defense, four have been in grade I competition, including a fourth in the Sept. 30 Jockey Gold Cup (gr. I), so these rivals should be much less imposing.

Trained by Nick Zito, Sun King has won only one of his last 15 starts but has earned more than $2.1 million lifetime. Julien Leparoux will ride for only the second time and leave from post eight. Sun King will carry a race-high 121 pounds.

A couple of other horses to consider are Casino Evil, a winner of two straight events, and Simon Pure, who was beaten a length by Casino Evil in the Oct. 6 Michael G. Schaefer Mile at Hoosier Park.

Completing the field are Throng, Spotsgone, and Ryan’s For Real.

The Ack Ack, won last year by It’s No Joke, is named for the 1971 Horse of the Year.

$200,000 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 4:34 p.m.), 3  & Up, One Mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Throng (KY), 115, Rene R. Douglas
2. Off Duty (FL), 117, Larry Melancon
3. Simon Pure (KY), 114, Shaun Bridgmohan
4. Casino Evil (KY), 116, Calvin H. Borel
5. Istan (KY), 118, Kent J. Desormeaux
6. Spotsgone (KY), 117, Robby Albarado
7. Ryan's for Real (FL), 115, Rafael Bejarano
8. Sun King (KY), 121, Julien R. Leparoux

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