Fire Slam Hopes for 'Trick' in Ack Ack 'Cap

(from Keeneland report)
Stan Fulton's 3-year-old Fire Slam may have a "trick" for his elders and a treat himself in Sunday's $150,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, the featured event on the Halloween opener of the track's 21-day "Fall Festival Of Racing."

The David Carroll-trained son of Gone West has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite in a field of seven-horse field in the 7 1/2-furlong race that is named for Cain Hoy Stable's 1971 "Horse of the Year." His older rivals include defending champion Cappuchino, who bids to become the Ack Ack's first two-time winner, and the speedy Battle Won, who has won back-to-back stakes sprints on the grass but is also accomplished on the main track.

Fire Slam was on the Kentucky Derby trail early in the year for the Churchill-based Carroll. He won the Lecomte (gr. III) at the Fair Grounds and finished runner-up in the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) at Keeneland. After that, the Irish-born Carroll turned Fire Slam back to shorter distances and the colt responded with a trio of stakes wins.

He closed strongly to whip the accomplished Cuvee in the six-furlong Matt Winn at Churchill Downs and traveled to New York to win the Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at Belmont Park, and edged older horses in the 6 1/2-furlong Don Bernhardt Memorial at Ellis Park. But Fire Slam stumbled at the start and lost all chance in the year's major objective, the Kings Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga, where he finished sixth to Pomeroy. He has not raced since.

"We have a lot of respect for the older horses, but he's doing well and he's almost four himself now," said Carroll. "He's doing very well, we'll have Pat Day back aboard and we're looking for a big race."

Fire Slam will carry 117 pounds and drew post five. He has an impressive career record of 6-2-0 in 10 races and has earned $653,751.

Fire Slam's older rivals include Cappuchino, trained by Northern California kingpin Jerry Hollendorfer, who co-owns the 5-year-old with Howard Litt and George Todaro. The son of Capote is coming off a four-length romp in the Turfway Fall Championship (gr. III) at odds of 31-1. The win snapped his string of seven straight losses since last year's Ack Ack win.

Jay Manoogian's Battle Won will wheel back off short rest after winning the five-furlong Woodford County on the Keeneland turf on Oct. 22. He ran third to Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) contender Champali and veteran stakes star Beau's Town in Churchill's Aristides Breeders' Cup (gr. III).

Also looming are Billy Tucker's Private Horde, winner of the 2003 A.G. Vanderbilt (gr. I) at Saratoga, and Domino Stud's Sir Cherokee, winner of the 2003 Arkansas Derby (gr. II).

$150,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III), 3 & up, 7 1/2 furlongs
PP, Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Private Horde (115) Rafael Bejarano 8-1
2. Sir Cherokee (114) Calvin Borel 8-1
3. Battle Won (114) Brice Blanc 5-2
4. Slate Run (106) Willie Martinez 20-1
5. Fire Slam (117) Pat Day 9-5
6. Cappuchino (118) Robby Albarado 7-2
7. Sterling Gold (113) Jesus Castanon 5-1