Laying just off the pace for three-quarters, 5-year-old Istan exploded at the top of the stretch and pulled away to win by 8 3/4 resounding lengths in the $200,000 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Churchill Downs Nov. 3.
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux and conditioned by Bill Mott, Istan returned to the main track one month after his first turf start of the year, a failed effort in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland in which the son of Gone West finished seventh.
In the Ack Ack, Istan was much the best, settling comfortably behind pacesetters Spotsgone, Throng and Off Duty at the start of the one-mile event for 3-year-olds and up. The opening fractions were :23.41, :45.85 and 1:09.83.
As the field of eight approached the final turn, Istan began his four-wide move. By the time they straightened away the bay horse took command and drew off with every stride. Betting favorite Sun King rallied five-wide from the back, was put to the drive by Julien Leparoux and was a neck better than 37-1 longshot Ryan’s for Real for place. Spotsgone was fourth.
But the day belonged to Istan, who is owned by Darpat S L Stables. The final time was 1:34.08 on a fast track.
“Wow. That was just such a brilliant effort on the horse’s part," Desormeaux said. "He broke a little hesitant, but in two strides, he had me camped behind the first flight, in a canter and just enjoying a gallop down the backside.
"I squeezed him out around the apex of the turn and he just jumped into the bridle and I had to slow him down and ask him to wait another 200 yards and cornered for home and just let him go. He did a fantastic job of just sprinting to the wire. There you have it; that is why I am here.”
Going off as the second betting choice, Istan paid $6.80, $3.40 and $2.80. The exacta (5-8) returned $17.20, while the trifecta (5-8-7) was worth $230.
Out of Bluebird mare Ronda, Istan has hit the winner’s circle nine times in 20 lifetime starts, including five this year. All of the scores in 2007 have been in stakes competition, with two of them coming just prior to the Shadwell Turf defeat.
On Aug. 11 Istan won by 4 1/2 lengths in the Governor’s Handicap at Ellis Park while earning a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. One month later he won his first graded stakes, taking the Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (gr. III) by 3 1/2 lengths. Both were also one-mile tests.
Assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy said that the Nov. 24 Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct could be a possibility for Istan. "Perhaps he might. This horse seems like he is on the upswing again, so we will get him home and make sure he comes out of the race good and start looking around again.”
Istan was bred in Kentucky by Dario Hinojosa.
Tracy Farmer’s Sun King was making his first start since the Sept. 30 Jockey Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont. The 5-year-old son of Charismatic was a well-beaten fourth in that effort and has not won since April of 2006.