Neck 'n Neck rolls home to win the Ack Ack Handicap.

Neck 'n Neck rolls home to win the Ack Ack Handicap.

Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Neck 'n Neck Rolls to Ack Ack Triumph

Son of Flower Alley gets the one-turn mile in 1:36.38 to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s homebred Neck 'n Neck had one horse beaten early in the $110,400 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, but put in a strong rally on the final turn from the outside and powered home in the stretch for a convincing 2 1/4-length win over Fort Loudon (VIDEO).

Brian Hernandez Jr., toting highweight of 120 pounds, rode the winner for trainer Ian Wilkes. The two will team again Nov. 3 at Santa Anita in an attempt to land the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) with Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned , the 5-1 co-second choice on the morning line.

Neck ’n Neck, fresh off a length victory in the Indiana Derby (gr. II) three weeks ago at Hoosier Park, was facing older rivals for the first time in the Ack Ack. The 3-year-old was unhurried in hand early on and sat well back of Fort Loudon and 7-5 favorite Dominus , who battled for the lead through fractions of :23.02 and :46.95. Dominus had a slight advantage on the turn for home, but Neck ’n Neck made a sweeping five-wide move with three-sixteenths of a mile to go and edged clear in the stretch.

“He’s really turning into a great horse,” Hernandez said. “I actually took him a little further back going into the turn just so I could get outside. He was always there for me and when I called on him at the top of the lane he kind of spurted away from them. He seems to be getting better with each start.”

Neck ’n Neck paid $5.40, $3, and $2.60 as the 8-5 second choice after covering the one mile in 1:36.38. Fort Loudon prevailed in a four-way photo for second and returned $4.20 and $3. Stealcase was a head back of the runner-up in third and paid $3.80. Seruni was a neck back in fourth and Dominus was another neck behind in fifth. Zimmer and Grand Berry completed the order of finish. Good Lord was scratched.

The dark bay or brown Kentucky-bred is by Flower Alley out of the Storm Boot mare Bootery. He banked $67,080 for the win and improved his record to 5-2-0 from 14 starts and has now earned $676,856. Four of his five victories have come at Churchill Downs in six starts, including a 7 1/4-length romp in the Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) in June.

Prior to the race, Wilkes mentioned that Neck ’n Neck would use the Ack Ack as a springboard to the Nov. 23  Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (gr. I).