Favored Bradester jumped to the lead at the start and stubbornly fought off a homestretch challenge from Carve before pulling away late under jockey Corey Lanerie for a 1 ¾-length victory in the $107,300 Grade III Ack Ack Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The Ack Ack victory was the second stakes win of the year for the 4-year-old son of Lion Heart, who covered the distance over a fast track in 1:34.54 and paid $4.40, $2.60 and $2.20 as the narrow betting choice in the field of five. Carve, who saw a three-race win streak snapped under Jesus Castanon, returned $3 and $2.20. Flashback rallied for third under Shaun Bridgmohan in his first start since late December and paid $2.60 to show.
The Ack Ack victory by the Eddie Kenneally-trained Bradester snapped a four-race losing streak that dated to a Feb. 22 triumph in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds. Owned by Joseph Sutton, Bradester won for the third time in seven 2014 starts and improved his career record to 5-5-1 in 13 races. The first-place prize of $66,526 boosted his career bankroll to $455,532.
“I had a perfect trip; just like we wanted him to,” said Lanerie, who collected his 19th career stakes victory at Churchill Downs. “If somebody wanted the lead I was going to let them have it. But I kept him out of trouble and was just a good passenger.”
"He’s been really, really good,” Kenneally said. “He’s matured and developed and I think he’s a better horse than he was and he’s still improving … He’s just better with age, perhaps.”
Bradester broke sharply and led through the backstretch of the one-turn mile distance before Right to Vote made a brief bid for the lead after a half-mile. The winner shook clear of that challenge, but was immediately confronted by Carve, who had launched a four-wide bid and pulled within within a half-length of in the upper stretch, but could get no closer. Flashback, last from the gate, moved up to third before losing ground on the turn. He rallied mildly in the stretch to gain third, but never threatened the top pair.
EDDIE KENNEALLY, trainer of Bradester (winner) – “He’s been really, really good. He’s matured and developed and I think he’s a better horse than he was and he’s still improving. It took him a while to get more professional in his races. Sometimes he gets a little bit intimidated when in between horses and such, but he’s a little braver now and a little bit more mature and probably a better horse as well. He’s just better with age, perhaps.”
“We’ll look at that [Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile], we’ll probably run him in the Kelso at Belmont and see how he does off of that. But that Breeders’ Cup race is a possibility.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey of Bradester (winner) – “I had a perfect trip; just like we wanted him to. I just kept him out; if somebody wanted to lead I was going to let them have it. But I kept him out of trouble and was just a good passenger. Hats off to Eddie and the whole team for getting him ready.”
BRAD COX, trainer of Carve (runner-up) – “I was proud of him. It was a good effort. This horse is a good horse; we’ll see how he comes out if it. We got options with him, he ran big today. I figured I’d get good numbers with him, they timed 1:34 and 2.”
Regarding the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile: “Yeah, absolutely. That’s definitely something we’ve been thinking about. I don’t know if we’d need a prep before that or not. He’s been battling all year and had several races, so if everything’s good here, that [Dirt Mile] is definitely an option.”
“I thought they’d go a lot quicker to be honest. I was a little shocked that they weren’t duking it out a little more than they were. [Jesus] Castanon put him in a good spot and we were caught a little wide around the turn. That’s just kind of victim of the post and short field.”
JESUS CASTANON, jockey of Carve (runner-up) – “Everything went pretty well as expected. I set right off of the leader and I just tried to make a move as soon as he decided to go. I was right behind the leader and I thought my horse was going to go by him. But I guess the other horse just had a bit more kick today.”