Grade 2 winners Dominus and Neck 'n Neck highlight an eight-horse field in Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. The one-mile event also features the U.S. debut of Group 1 Argentinean hero Grand Berry.
Dominus will return to dirt for Todd Pletcher following a pair of turf efforts, including a front-running score in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga. The speedy four-year-old captured Grade 2 Dwyer on dirt last season and figures to be forwardly-placed with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
Neck 'n Neck returns to Churchill Downs, where he posted runaway victories in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes and an allowance event this sprint, off a very encouraging score in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby. His connections were considering the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita for the Ian Wilkes-trained sophomore, but elected to use the Ack Ack as a prep for the Grade 1 Clark Handicap under the Twin Spires November 23. Brian Hernandez retains the mount.
Grand Berry will make his first North American appearance for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott. He easily captured the Group 1 Argentine Two Thousand Guineas and finished second to Breeders' Cup Mile entrant Suggestive Boy in the Group 1 Gran Premio Jockey Club last year, and opened his four-year-old season with a solid Group 2 win. Grand Berry exits a seventh to Expressive Halo in the Grand Premio Republica Argentina on May 1.
Other runners include multiple stakes victor Good Lord, second in the recent Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Mile at Hoosier Park; Grade 3 winner Fort Loudon; Grade 2-placed stakes winner Seruni; and Stealcase, a Grade 1-placed stakes winner.