Wayne T. Davis’ ultra-consistent 5-year-old Mocito Rojo invaded from Louisiana and wore down Silver Dust in deep stretch to win Saturday night’s $250,000 Lukas Classic presented by Budweiser (Grade III) by a neck – the highlight of a stakes tripleheader on a special “Downs After Dark” nighttime card that attracted a crowd of 17,053.

Ridden by Gerard Melancon and trained by Shane Wilson, Mocito Rojo ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.91 to collect his seventh stakes win and fifth in a row this year.

Overall, he’s won 17 of 25 starts with three seconds and one third, and the $147,250 first prize boosted his earnings to $797,000.

Mocito Rojo won the $100,000 Evangeline Mile and $75,000 Delta Mile in 2018. His campaign this year includes wins in the $60,000 Owner Appreciation Cup at Delta Downs, $300,000 Steve Sexton Mile (GIII) at Lone Star Park, $100,000 Evangeline Mile and $175,000 Governor’s Cup at Remington Park.

“I think I’m still dreaming,” said 90-year-old Davis. “I’ve been waiting all my life to have a horse like this. He won’t be ignored anymore. I think he has more heart than Secretariat – just doesn’t weigh nearly as much. We’ll take things one step at a time but I am just so thrilled to be here.”

Pioneer Spirit led the field of 10 older horses through early splits of :24.04, :48.73 and 1:12.51 with Silver Dust chasing just off his right hip and 2-1 favorite Quip pulling just behind the leader. Louisiana-based Melancon had Mocito Rojo in a clear stalking-position in fourth.

Silver Dust, the winner of the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s (GIII) last out, put away Pioneer Spirit midway on the turn as Mocito Rojo engaged from the outside. The two battled gamely down the entire 1,234-foot stretch but it was Mocito Rojo who prevailed in the final stages. Sir Anthony, a 20-1 outsider, finished another four lengths back in third.

“The races are always tough when you head to Kentucky and tonight proved it,” Melancon said. “(Trainer) Bret (Calhoun)’s horse (Silver Dust) really dug in and tried hard the length of the stretch. I thought I finally had him in deep stretch. I haven’t been to Churchill since 1985 but now it’s worth it.”

Mocito Rojo, a son of Mutadda out of the Orientate mare Blushing Royale, rewarded his backers with $2 mutuels of $19.60, $9.40 and $6.80 at odds of 8-1. Silver Dust, ridden by Jack Gilligan, paid $8 and $5.20. Sir Anthony, with James Graham up, returned $9.20 to show.

The order of finish was completed by Blueridge Traveler, Big Dollar Bill, Quip, Kukulkan (MEX), Tenfold, Pioneer Spirit and Hawaakom.

Mocito Rojo was bred in Kentucky by Paul Van Doren and Andrena Van Doren.

“Every single time he’s stepped up and ran a better race,” Wilson said. “I think we’ll probably take him back to Louisiana after this and decide what’s next. There are many big races for him over the winter at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn. He’s just getting started.”

The Lukas Classic honors the iconic 84-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The four-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks and conditioner of 26 Eclipse Award-winning champions has been based at Churchill Downs’ Barn 44 since 1989.

MR FREEZE, WITH ALBARADO UP, WINS GRADE III, $150,000 ACK ACK

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019)Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Mr Freeze circled three-wide on the turn for home, grabbed the lead at the quarter pole and held a rallying Thirstforlife at bay in deep stretch to win Saturday night’s 27th renewal of the $150,000 Ack Ack presented by GE Appliances (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by 1 ½ lengths.

Mr Freeze, a 4-year-old son of To Honor and Serve, ran one mile on a fast track in 1:34.11.

Robby Albarado rode the winner for Churchill Downs’ all-time leading trainer Dale Romans. He replaced Martin Chuan, who took off his mounts Saturday to ride in his native Peru on Sunday.

For the veteran Albarado, it was an important win as it was the 45-year-old’s second victory in 33 mounts since returning to the saddle on Aug. 31 after he underwent surgery to repair a June 23 wrist fracture.

Canterbury Park invader Mr. Jagermeister, the mild 3-1 favorite in the field of eight older horses, grabbed the early lead and set fractions of :22.95 and :45.35 as Mr Darcy and Mr Freeze tracked in close pursuit. Mr Freeze ranged up on the turn, took command once in the stretch and drew clear with a furlong to go.

“Dale and his team had this horse ready to go tonight,” Albarado said. “He was pretty forward tonight in the race and just carried an easy rhythm around the entire track. He has progressed and matured, as he’s gotten older. I’ve ridden him in the past and he seems like he’s really finding his stride and putting it all together.”

The first prize was $90,210 and hiked Mr Freeze’s bankroll to $542,710 with a record of 8-4-2-0. He broke his maiden last summer at Churchill Downs as a 3-year-old and later won the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (GIII).

“Credit really goes to our owners for letting us take our time with this horse and getting him back to his real self,” Romans said. “Tonight he really ran a strong effort in a fast time. We’ll have to see moving forward where we could end up with him but the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile could certainly be in the discussion.”

Five of the last six Ack Ack winners – Pants On Fire (2013), Tapiture (2015), Tom’s Ready (2016), Awesome Slew (2017) and Seeking the Soul (2018) – used the race as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Mr Freeze paid $14.80, $8 and $4.20 at odds of 6-1. Thirstforlife, ridden by Miguel Mena, paid $7 and $4.60. Mr Darcy was another 1 ½ lengths back in third under Jesus Castanon and paid $3.80 to show.

C Z Rocket, Mr. Jagermeister, Timeline, Air Strike and Unmatchable completed the order of finish. Olympic Village was scratched when his connections opted to run in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at Belmont Park where he finished fifth of five.

Mr Freeze, out of the Tabasco Cat mare Heavenly Cat, was bred in Kentucky by Siena Farms LLC.

For Albarado, it was his second Ack Ack win after previously riding It’s No Joke to victory in 2006. This was Romans’ first Ack Ack triumph.

The race is named in honor of Cain Hoy Stable’s 1971 Horse of the Year Ack Ack, who is enshrined in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In his only Churchill Downs appearance, Ack Ack won the 1969 Derby Trial in 1:34.40 which was a track record for one mile that has since been eclipsed.

SPECTACULAR GEM WIRES FIELD IN JEFFERSON CUP TRIUMPH

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019) – It was minor redemption for the husband-wife team of owner Candie and trainer Jimmy Baker as Spectacular Gem collected his first stakes win with a wire-to-wire win in Saturday night’s 43rd running of the $125,000 Jefferson Cup (Listed) for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

Spectacular Gem did the same thing in his previous start, the $200,000 Caesars at Indiana Grand at odds of 35-1, but was disqualified from first to fourth for interference.

This time it was smooth sailing at 9-1.

James Graham replaced Declan Cannon aboard Spectacular Gem and they established a clear lead early. Spectacular Gem rated in hand down the backstretch and led the field of seven through fractions of :23.26, :47.11 and 1:11.37. He was challenged by multiple rivals around the final turn but swiftly repelled their bids and comfortably beat Tracksmith by 1 ¾ lengths to clock 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.14. It was another nose back to Faraway Kitten in third.

“This horse really settled well today taking off the blinkers,” Graham said. “Going longer tonight I think that really helped him and he just kept on motoring home. He’s a really nice horse and I’m thrilled for Jimmy.”

The $75,950 winner’s share jumped the Can the Man colt’s earnings to $161,920 from a record of 11-3-1-3.

“This was a bit of redemption tonight for him after getting taken down last time,” said Jimmy Baker, who collected his first stakes win since Will’s Wildcat won the $88,300 Jimmy V. at Churchill Downs on the undercard of Breeders’ Cup Friday in 2011. “After the Caesars, we decided if we went to the Jefferson Cup we’d take off the blinkers because he would be going the extra furlong. That really helped him. He worked well last week without them and proved his talent tonight.”

Spectacular Gem paid $21.40, $9.60 and $4. Tracksmith, ridden by Adam Beschizza, returned $4 and $3. Faraway Kitten, piloted by Julien Leparoux, paid $2.60 to show.

Clint Maroon (GB), Rijeka (IRE), 9-5 favorite Scars Are Cool and Mick’s Star completed the order of finish. Corruze was scratched.

Out of the Malabar Gold mare Blackhawk Honey, Spectacular Gem was bred in Kentucky by Ledgelands LLC and Andrew Ritter.

The Jefferson Cup is named in honor of Jefferson County, the most populous county in Kentucky which Churchill Downs resides.

CARRYOVERS CONTINUE: $71,686 LATE PICK 5 CARRYOVER ON CLOSING DAY SUNDAY

Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday for closing day of the 11-day September Meet. The first of 10 races is 12:45 p.m. Eastern and there’s a $71,686 carryover in the late 50-cent Pick 5 on Races 6-10 starting at 3:16 p.m.

Also, the 20-cent Single 6, which covers Races 5-10, must be paid to the most winners of six because of the meet’s conclusion. Both multi-race wagers feature a 15% takeout, which is among the lowest takeout races in American racing.

There also is a $4,306 carryover in the $1 Super Hi-5 Race 10 finale, which also must be paid out.

LUKAS CLASSIC QUOTES

Gerard Melancon, jockey of MOCITO ROJO (winner): “The races are always tough when you head to Kentucky and tonight proved it. Bret’s horse (Silver Dust) really dug in and tried hard the length of the stretch. I thought I finally had him in deep stretch. I haven’t been to Churchill since 1985 but now it’s worth it.”

Shane Wilson, trainer of MOCITO ROJO (winner): “Every single time he’s stepped up and ran a better race. I think we’ll probably take him back to Louisiana after this and decide what’s next. There are many big races for him over the winter at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn. He’s just getting started.”

Wayne Davis, owner of MOCITO ROJO (winner): “I think I’m still dreaming. I’ve been waiting all my life to have a horse like this. He won’t be ignored anymore. I think he has more heart than Secretariat – just doesn’t weigh nearly as much. We’ll take things one step at a time but I am just so thrilled to be here.”

Bret Calhoun, trainer of SILVER DUST (runner-up): “He ran a really awesome race tonight. Credit goes to the winner. They really battled hard and it was a great race.”

Florent Geroux, jockey of QUIP (sixth as 2-1 favorite): “We broke very sharp and sat a perfect trip but just didn’t have the late kick.”

ACK ACK QUOTES

Robby Albarado, jockey of MR FREEZE (winner): “Dale (Romans) and his team had this horse ready to go tonight. He was pretty forward tonight in the race and just carried an easy rhythm around the entire track. He has progressed and matured, as he’s gotten older. I’ve ridden him in the past and he seems like he’s really finding his stride and putting it all together.”

Dale Romans, trainer of MR FREEZE (winner): “Credit really goes to our owners (Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister) for letting us take our time with this horse and getting him back to his real self. Tonight he really ran a strong effort in a fast time. We’ll have to see moving forward where we could end up with him but the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile could certainly be in the discussion.”

Miguel Mena, jockey of THIRSTFORLIFE (second): “He really ran a strong effort. We’re going to break through with him soon.”

JEFFERSON CUP QUOTES

James Graham, jockey of SPECTACULAR GEM (winner): “This horse really settled well today taking off the blinkers. Going longer tonight I think that really helped him and he just kept on motoring home. He’s a really nice horse and I’m thrilled for Jimmy (Baker).”

Jimmy Baker, trainer of SPECTACULAR GEM (winner): “This was a bit of redemption tonight for him after getting taken down last time. After the Caesars, we decided if we went to the Jefferson Cup we’d take off the blinkers because he would be going the extra furlong. That really helped him. He worked well last week without them and proved his talent tonight.”

Joe Sharp, trainer of TRACKSMITH (runner-up): “It was a really nice effort tonight. He started to close ground in the late stages of the race but didn’t have enough to catch the winner.”

Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey of SCARS ARE COOL (sixth as the 9-5 favorite): “He really didn’t handle the surface tonight. I could never get him comfortable.”

Mocito Rojo
Sign up for race updates, wagering tips, and inside news
Thank you to our sponsor