Straight Line Follows Direct Route in Ack Ack

Returning to the site of his Iroquois (gr. III) victory nearly a year ago, Straight Line edged past the pacesetting favorite Vicarage near the eighth pole for an upset victory in the $112,200 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) on opening day of the Churchill Downs fall meeting Sunday.

Straight Line, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan for 81-year-old trainer Harvey Vanier, turned the tables on Vicarage, who beat him by 10 lengths in Keeneland's Perryville (gr. III) Oct. 14.

This time around, Vicarage encountered plenty of pace pressure early from 42-1 shot Britt's Jules through fractions of :22 1/5 and :44 2/5. Straight Line, poised in third on the outside of the speed duel after being bumped at the break by Britt's Jules, swept up to challenge in the stretch and took command late to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:28 1/5 for the 7 1/2-furlong distance. Vicarage held second with Rafael Bejarano aboard, and it was 1 3/4 lengths more to third-place finisher Level Playingfield, ridden by John McKee.

"The pace kind of set up better for him this time than last time," said Bridgmohan, wo rode the dark bay colt in his last four starts, including the Perryville. "Today he got a very reasonable pace to run at sitting third. I just bided my time and, when Vicarage drew off from that other horse, I knew it was time to go and tackle him and don't let him get anything easy."

Straight Line, along Vicarage the only 3-year-olds in the field of nine, earned $69,564 for owners Nancy A. Vanier, the trainer's wife, and Cartwright Thoroughbreds LLC. The son of Boundary, a $15,000 Keeneland sale in September 2003, improved to 6-2-0 in 14 starts with earnings of $333,776. He has won both of his starts at Churchill Downs after taking the Iroquois as a 2-year-old Nov. 6.

"Let's just put it this way – it never gets too stale winning a race," said the trainer Vanier, asked what it's like winning stakes races at 81. "It's a beautiful feeling and it's always touching. It never gets old winning."

He paid $20.60, $7.20 and $4.60. Vicarage, the 9-10 favorite, returned $3 and $2.20 and Level Playingfield was $3 to show.

"I thought I had a lot of horse at the top of the stretch," Bejarano said of the runner-up. "He felt really strong. But (Stright Line) was coming really strong."

Go Now, Nakayama Kun, Artemus Sunrise, Nkosi Reigns, Sterling Gold and Britt's Jules completed the order.

(Chart, Equibase)