Owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, Anak Nakal ended a long drought with a well-timed victory at odds of 16-1 for trainer Nick Zito. The seventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Anak Nakal posted his first win in seven starts in 2008. The son of Victory Gallop won the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs last November.
Acai, off at odds of 9-1 as a part of the field entry in a 13-horse line-up, put away slight favorite Smooth Air in the stretch and appeared destined for victory after opening up a clear advantage. But Anak Nakal, who weaved his way through traffic to reach contention mid-stretch, made steady progress under strong handling in the final furlong to get up just in time for Bravo. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds was 1:48.99 on a fast track.
It was Bravo's third victory in the rich race.
Smooth Air, the lukewarm 4-1 choice under Manoel Cruz, finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up Acai, who was ridden by Southern California-based Corey Nakatani.
Wishful Tomcat, pushed along on the outside by California invader Two Step Salsa, carved the early fractions of :23.32 and :47.42. Two Step Salsa, the narrow second choice, went for an early move on the final turn, leading after six furlongs 1:11.61 but gave way in upper stretch to Acai, who gradually pulled away before being caught in the final strides in a game effort.
Anak Nakal was reserved at the back of the pack early before making his bid on the far turn, Bravo rousing him at the quarter pole and alternating the stick repeatedly as they made their way through traffic. In deep stretch, the dark bay colt accelerated to get up just in time.
Following a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), where he was beaten by eight lengths by Da' Tara, Zito gave Anak Nakal a seven-week break, returning him in Saratoga's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) July 27. Anak Nakal trailed the field for most of the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, passing a couple of tired horses in the stretch and finishing fifth, 13 lengths behind the victorious Macho Again. That was his sixth consecutive loss since his victory last year at Churchill.
Anak Nakal earned $532,000 for his third win in 10 lifetime starts, which boosted his bankroll to $875,416. Buckram Oak Farm bred the winner, who is out of the Quiet American mare Misk, in Kentucky.
Sent off as the 10th choice in the big field, Anak Nakal carried 114 pounds to victory and paid a handsome $34.60, $15 and $8.60. Acai, coming off back-to-back wins for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., added blinkers for the Pennsylvania Derby and returned $10.40 and $6.40. The $2 exacta was worth $344.80. Smooth Air, who drifted out in the stretch, was $4.60 to show in his first start since winning the Ohio Derby (gr. II) at Thistledown by four lengths May 31 for trainer Bennie Stutts Jr.
It was 1 1/4 lengths to fourth-place finisher Stones River, who was a head better than Atoned. Tiz Now Tiz then and Two Step Salsa finished in a dead heat for sixth. You and I Forever, Alaazo, Only for Now, Ready Set, Numaany and Wishful Tomcat followed. Power Game scratched.
One race earlier, True to Tradition cleared off in the stretch for jockey Kendrick Carmouche to post a four-length win over favored Heros Reward in the $250,000 Turf Monster Handicap.
Trained by Scott Lake for owners Ben Mondello and Adam Russo, the 6-year-old Rahy gelding ran the five furlongs in :56.17 and paid $12.60 to win.
True to Tradition won for the ninth time in 22 starts and increased his lifetime earnings to $393,241.
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