Churchill Downs raises the curtain on the 113th Fall Meet in its storied history on Sunday, Oct. 27 with a ten-race card that includes the 10th running of the $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) as its featured event.
The 7 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds & up has attracted a strong and competitive field of eight that includes James Tafel's morning line favorite Binthebest, a stakes-placed son of Binalong. Binthebest runs his best races at Churchill Downs.
Cres Ran LLC's Chindi ia a veteran sprint star who rallied from far off the pace to win the 2000 running of the Ack Ack.
Sunday's opening day card launches a 30-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs that continues through Nov. 30.
Fans looking for a "horse for the course" will be attracted to the stretch-running Binthebest, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Carl Nafzger who is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Keeneland. The top three finishers in that race -- Xtra Heat, Day Trader and Touch Tone -- are all scheduled to compete in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Arlington Park.
Binthebest has just five wins in 22 career starts -- but he has scored all but one of those victories at Churchill Downs. His 4-1-2 record in seven races at the Louisville track includes a runner-up finish to Breeders' Cup Sprint contender Orientate in the Aristides Handicap (gr. II) and a close third-place finish behind D'Wildcat and Snow Ridge in the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II).
"He seems to run better against the better company -- you seem to get a truer race from him," said Ian Wilkes, Nafzger's assistant trainer. "When you come down to not quite top grade horses, he just doesn't perform quite to the same level. They don't run as quick early and he needs that quick pace early. But he's really been honest all year."
Jon Court will ride Binthebest, who has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia and has been assigned 113 pounds.
The 8-year-old Chindi, a gelded gray son of El Prado trained by Steve Hobby, is the oldest member of the Ack Ack field and his career earnings of $807,855 make him the richest of its eight entrants. He has won 16 of 60 career races and has compiled a 3-1-3 record in ten races this year.
Jockey Robby Albarado will ride Chindi, who is listed as the 4-1 second choice in the morning line. The veteran sprinter shares highweight of 116 pounds with Keith Asmussen's Mountain General, winner of the Marfa Handicap at Turfway Park.
Others in the field include Lazy Lane Farm's Bright Valour, a two-time winner of the Hanshin Handicap (GIII) at Arlington Park; Mike Pegram's Danthebluegrassman, a Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old who won the Northern Dancer Handicap at Churchill Downs; and Donamire Farm's Twilight Road, who will be ridden by Pat Day.100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III), 7 1/2 furlongs, 3 & up
Post/Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Danthebluegrassman (110) Mark Guidry 5-1
2. Makors Mark (114) Lonnie Meche 12-1
3. Twilight Road (113) Pat Day 5-1
4. Cojet (112) Daniel Coa 8-1
5. Chindi (116) Robby Albarado 4-1
6. Binthebest (113) Jon Court 3-1
7.Freon Flyer (113) James Lopez 15-1
8. Mountain General (116) Donnie Meche 5-1
9.Bright Valour (114) Calvin Borel 8-1Morning Line odds by Mike Battaglia