Last year, it was trainer Brad Cox’s venerable Plainsman who reigned in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race named for a horse from the late 60s and early 70s, who was called Ack Ack after the action of World War II artillery pieces. Ack Ack knew how to fire, and this year’s edition brings together a strong group of dirt milers that will be aiming for an expenses-paid ticket to the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Graded stakes glory awaits the fastest of them all.
A survey of the form tells us that a couple of these runners exited the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort. Cox’s Fulsome (#3) was able to come from behind to score by 1 ¼ lengths in that race, while Steve Asmussen’s Silver Prospector (#6) charged late for third. Both of these horses are capable on any given day, but I would give the nod to Cox. Using his talented Juddmonte homebred by Into Mischief is a good idea in any of your horizontal wagers.
As far as a top choice, I have a pair of contenders that could win for different reasons. Todd Pletcher trainee Untreated (#2) looks the part after taking on some top-class runners like First Captain, Dynamic One, and most recently in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga, Olympiad. I think Pletcher’s decision to cut this colt by Nyquist back from “Classic” distances to a mile is a solid strategy. Having Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard only sweetens the deal. I will be tote watching this one’s price, and if he ends up being over 3-1, then I would consider that an overlay.
I can’t deny that I am more enticed by a colt that I have followed since the fall of 2020. Todd Fincher is a New Mexico-based trainer who might be one of the most underrated conditioners in all of America. If you haven’t taken notice, it’s time! He breaks in his own racehorses, shepherding them along the road to the racetrack. Senor Buscador (#8), a homebred out of seven-time stakes winner Rose’s Desert for owner Joey Peacock, burst on to the 2021 Kentucky Derby Trail scene after an eye-popping, come-from-behind performance in the Remington Springboard Mile in late 2020 at Remington Park. As a 3-year-old, he never realized his potential when an injury sent him to the bench after a fifth-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at the Fair Grounds. It has taken time and patience to get him to return, but Fincher knows how to manage expectations.
After a pair of races in Grade 2 stakes during the Del Mar summer meet, he comes to Churchill in the best shape of his life. Francisco Arrieta has the call, and he is a jockey that knows how to lay in wait. This Mineshaft colt possesses a big late kick, which was on display at odds of 21-1 in the Pat O’Brien Stakes last time out in a race that also feaatured Bill Mott’s Speaker’s Corner (#1). Senor Buscador hit the board then, rallying for third, while favored Speaker’s Corner faded to fourth. Fincher’s colt can do much better than that against the big barns on Saturday afternoon. Headline rewrite … New Mexico brings the land of enchantment to Churchill!
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$10 to win on #8 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $10 to win on 8
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$20 to win on #8 ($20)
What to say at the betting window: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $20 to win on 8
$5 Exacta Box: 2,8 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $5 exacta box 2,8