Shortleaf Stable’s Plainsman rallied from off the pace, grabbed the lead with a furlong to run and out-kicked 1-2 favorite Beau Liam to the wire to win Saturday’s 29th renewal of the $300,000 Ack Ack (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by one length.
Plainsman, a 6-year-old son of Flatter, ran one mile on a fast track in 1:33.85, which was just .07 off Pants On Fire’s 2013 stakes record (1:33.78) and .59 off Fruit Ludt’s 2014 track record (1:33.26).
Joel Rosario rode the winner for trainer Brad Cox, who swept the Saturday stakes at Churchill Downs. Two races earlier, Knicks Go won the Lukas Classic (GIII).
For Rosario it was his fifth win on the day, which marked the 72nd time a jockey has accomplished that feat and the first since Florent Geroux won five races from nine mounts on Sept. 4, 2020. Rosario’s nine mounts earned a hefty $603,170 on the day.
Atoka, with Mr Dumas in tow, led the field of nine older horses down the backstretch in the one-turn mile through fractions of :22.65, :45.21 and 1:09.15 with Plainsman sitting off the pace and in clear.
Leaving the turn after a three-wide move, Plainsman was in fifth behind the leaders and ducked inside to split Mr Dumas on the rail and Atoka on his outside. He grabbed the lead with an eighth of a mile to run and turned back favored Beau Liam, who made his stakes debut after winning his first three starts.
“I was able to sit a good trip for most of the race,” Rosario said. “I knew turning for home I’d have a decision to make whether to keep him inside or go out. I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me and the race developed well for him.”
The first prize was $178,800 and hiked Plainsman’s bankroll to $729,207 with a record of 8-6-3 from 25 starts. It was his fourth career stakes win. Previously he won the 2018 Discovery (GIII) at age 3 and prevailed in the $50,000 Jim Rasmussen at Prairie Meadows and $85,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Grand earlier this year.
“This horse has been in great form this year,” Cox said. “I think two-turns is probably his best distance but today he was able to sit a good trip from off the pace at the one-turn mile. He showed a lot of adversity today and ran a good effort.”
Six of the last eight Ack Ack winners – Pants On Fire (2013), Tapiture (2015), Tom’s Ready (2016), Awesome Slew (2017), Seeking the Soul (2018) and Mr. Money (2020) – used the race as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, which is scheduled for Nov. 6 at Del Mar with a $1 million purse. Cox non-comital to Plainsman’s next start.
Plainsman paid $13.60, $3.80 and $3.20 at odds of 5-1. Beau Liam, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $2.60 and $2.40. Atoka was another 2 ¾ lengths back in third under Rafael Bejarano and paid $8 to show.
Rushie, South Bend, Mr Dumas, Guest Suite, Exculpatory and Mo Mosa completed the order of finish. Ebben and Aloha West were scratched.
Plainsman, out of the Street Sense mare S S Pinafore, was bred in Kentucky by Joseph Minor.
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.