Allied Racing Stable LLC and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Mr. Money rated just off a hot early pace, slipped through an opening along the rail leaving the turn and spurted clear inside the eighth pole to hold off late runs by Bourbon Calling and Thirstforlife and win Saturday’s 28th running of the $100,000 Ack Ack (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by 1 ¼ lengths.
Ridden by Gabriel Saez and trained by Bret Calhoun, Mr. Money, the 4-year-old son of Goldencents, clocked the one-turn mile in 1:34.85 to collect his fifth career Grade III stakes win.
Warrior’s Charge, the heavy 6-5 favorite, broke fastest of all from the inside and led the field of 12 older horses through record Ack Ack early fractions – an opening quarter-mile in :22.61 and the half in :44.85 – with American Anthem pressing from the outside and Mr. Money tracking along the inside.
Pioneer Spirit, who was fourth early on, made an early move around the turn to pressure Warrior’s Charge. Off the turn in a swift 1:09.11, Pioneer Spirit poked his head in front of Warrior’s Charge, who drifted out and opened a hole for Mr. Money to slip through along the inside. Mr. Money grabbed the lead at the eighth pole and grinded his way to victory as the fast pace benefitted closers Bourbon Calling and Thirstforlife, who were separated by a meagre nose for the placing.
“We sat a perfect trip,” Saez said. “This horse hasn’t had things go his way this year and showed us the real Mr. Money today.”
Previously, Mr. Money hadn’t hit the board in four starts this year, including a last-place finish in the $600,000 Charles Town Classic (GII) on Aug. 28.
Mr. Money, the 6-1 third betting choice, paid $14.80, $8.40 and $5.80. Bourbon Calling, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., returned $12 and $8.60 at odds of 15-1. Thirstforlife, a 39-1 longshot under Chris Landeros, paid $14.40 to show.
Dinar, Ebeen, Pioneer Spirit, Bankit, Warrior’s Charge, Everfast, Alkhaatam, Home Base and American Anthem completed the order of finish. Proverb was scratched.
The first prize was $57,660 and hiked Mr. Money’s bankroll to $1,360,430 with a record of 6-3-0 in 17 starts. As a 3-year-old last season, Mr. Money won four Grade III events: the Pay Day Mile (GIII), Matt Winn (GIII), Indiana Derby (GIII) and West Virginia Derby (GIII).
It was his fourth win in six starts at Churchill Downs. “He loves this track and got to run out of his own stall,” Calhoun said.
A start in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (GI) on Nov. 7 at Keeneland could be next for Mr. Money. Five of the last seven 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 Dirt Mile.
“Fingers crossed that will take us to the Breeders’ Cup,” said co-owner Chester Thomas of Allied Racing Stable LLC. “We are so thrilled for this horse, Bret, his entire team and Gabe.”
Mr. Money, out of the Tiznow mare Plenty O’Toole, was bred in Kentucky by Spruce Lane Farm.
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.
ACK ACK QUOTES
Gabriel Saez (winning rider, Mr. Money) – “We sat a perfect trip. This horse hasn’t had things go his way this year and showed us the real Mr. Money today.”
Bret Calhoun (winning trainer, Mr. Money) – “Gabe worked out a perfect trip on him. I thought his last few tries weren’t a fair assessment of who this horse is. He showed us who he was today. He loves this track and got to run out of his own stall.”
Chester Thomas (co-winning owner, Mr. Money) – “Fingers crossed that will take us to the Breeders’ Cup. We are so thrilled for this horse, Bret, his entire team and Gabe.”
Florent Geroux (jockey of 6-5 beaten favorite Warrior’s Charge, eighth) – “We broke really sharp and there was a lot of pressure to my outside and he just got tired late.”