Aikenite wins the Churchill Downs Stakes.

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Aikenite wins the Churchill Downs Stakes.
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Mathea Kelley

Aikenite Wins Squeaker in Churchill Downs S.

Dogwood Stable's late-running 4-year-old takes grade II event by nose over Apriority.

The bob of a head brought a nose victory to Aikenite  in the $348,900 Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) May 7 (VIDEO).

Dogwood Stable’s 4-year-old son of Yes It's True—Silverado, by Saint Ballado, won his second staight grade II, having come into the race off a 2 1/4-length victory in the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland April 16. The dark bay/brown colt, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velasquez, was bred in Florida by Brylynn Farm.

Overcoming his rail starting post, the late-running Aikenite turned in a final time for the seven-furlong race of 1:21.40 over the fast track.

Captain Cherokee quickly grabbed the lead after the break and was pursued by Le Grand Cru. They led the field through brisk fractions of :22.56 and :45-flat. Going into the turn, Le Grant Cru grabbed a brief lead that vanished, as the field fanned out into the top of the stretch. Far to the outside, racing seven wide, was Aikenite. In the middle of the field was Apriority, who was desperately looking for running room. Apriority got his space when Capt. Candyman Can moved forward to take the lead with an eighth of a mile to go.

Aikenite hooked up with Apriority in mid-stretch but both were still chasing Capt. Candyman Can. Aikenite and Apriority had the momentum, however, taking the lead only a couple of jumps from the wire. Also closing fast was 21-1 longshot Ibboyee who nosed out Capt. Candyman Can for third while finishing a half-length behind the first two.

Coming out of post 1 had been a concern for both Pletcher and Velasquez.

“He gets excited inside so I worked my way out going to the half-mile pole,” Velasquez said. “I took him out where he was comfortable so when the quarter-pole came I went around the horses and got him in the clear and he started running. I definitely thought I got there, but it was hard work to get there, let me tell you.”

Pletcher said he has a lot of options with Aikenite going forward, particularly with the Breeders’ Cup World Championships returning to Churchill Downs in the fall.

“We ran him in the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt) Mile (gr. I) last year and we could run him there again,” he said. “The (Breeders' Cup) Sprint is also possible. It might be that this distance is his best.”

Aikenite's fifth win in 18 starts was worth $201,175 and increased the dark bay/brown colt's earnings to $688,635.

The winner paid $28.60, $12.60, and $8.40. Apriority paid $7.80 and $6.20. Ibboyee paid $12.40 to show. The $2 exacta was $144.20 and the trifecta paid $2,399.60.

Following Capt. Candyman Can was Noble's Promise , favorite Smiling Tiger , Here Comes Ben, Captain Cherokee, Mythical Power, Delong Road, Le Grand Cru, and Chocolate Candy, who propped coming out of the gate and trailed all the way.