By Evan Hammonds
G M B Racing's Tom's Ready roared past a tiring Runhappy at Churchill Downs Oct. 1 to win the Ack Ack Stakes, completing the mile distance in 1:34.86.
Runhappy, the heavy favorite off his championship last year as male sprinter, faded after having the lead on the turn to finish fourth. Iron Fist finished second and Schivarelli came in third.
Runhappy broke sharply under Hall of Fame rider Edgar Prado and was able to get by with a :23.08 opening quarter-mile. He was joined by Mr. Z on the backstretch, who applied some pressure through a half-mile in :45.95. As the field turned for home, Runhappy had the lead but was quickly met by a pair of challengers. The 3-year-old Tom’s Ready swooped by with a wide move under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
“He was going nice and easy on the lead and was sitting very comfortable,” Prado said of the returning champ. “He was able to rate in the Breeders’ Cup last year, so we did a little of that. He was comfortable, but we just couldn’t get it done in the last part.”
Tom’s Ready paid $11.80, $5.20, and $6.40. Iron Fist brought $6.40 and $12.40, and Schivarelli returned $18 with heavy wagering on Runhappy to show in the five-horse field.
“We bought into Tom’s Ready back after his Woody Stephens win,” said Spendthrift Farm’s Mark Toothaker in the winner’s circle. “It’s such a funny thing when (trainer) Dallas (Stewart) was trying to decide between going to New York to the Kelso or running here, he said, ‘I think I’m going to stay here and run against Runhappy.’ I said, ‘Are you crazy? What are you thinking?’ He said, ‘This horse, trying to win after a year layoff going a flat mile at Churchill … I don’t care how fit they think he is, it’s almost impossible to do. I truly believe if we’re ever going to beat him, this is the time.’”
Tom’s Ready, a son of More Than Ready out of the Broad Brush mare Goodbye Stranger, finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. Shortened up to one turn, he won the seven-furlong Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes day in New York. He most recently finished ninth in Sararatoga’s King’s Bishop Stakes. He was bred in Pennsylvania by Blackstone Farm. He now has three wins from 13 starts.