It is all about bounceback-ability at Churchill Downs on Saturday, with some big names on a retrieval mission after disappointing last time. The G1 winners Rattle N Roll and Americanrevolution have the G2 Lukas Classic between them on paper as they bid to recapture former glories, while Zozos will be a heavy chalk in the G3 Ack Ack despite the presence of recent G2 winner Three Technique.
Ack Ack Stakes
G3, $400,000, 1m dirt, 3yo+, 4.58pm ET
Whatever the fate of Warrant in the Lukas Classic, trainer Brad Cox will still be confident of getting something out of the afternoon as he has the heavy chalk in the Ack Ack, a win-and-in for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
His contender does require a slight leap of faith, however, as Zozos (6-5) has a zero-for-four count in Graded stakes, and ran well below expectations when fourth as favourite in the 2023 G3 Philip H. Iselin at Monmouth Park behind Whelen Springs and Trademark, who both run in the Lukas Classic.
Prior to that, though, Zozos had been on a roll in stakes and posted a career-best at Ellis Park over a mile, going gate-to-wire and drawing off to win by three lengths, while three starts ago he had Three Technique (3-1) five and a half lengths back in third in a stakes over course and distance, with Caddo River (15-1) tenth of 11.
This is not a very strong G3 and it could be the perfect spot for Zozos to snap his losing streak, especially as he is likely to get his own way out front.
Three Technique is two-for-two since that defeat, and made his breakthrough at Graded level with a dominant score in the 2023 G2 John A. Nerud over seven furlongs at Belmont Park. This mile is probably right at the end of his stamina limit, but he could well improve on last year’s third in this race as his recent improvement means he comes here in much better order than 12 months ago.
Once upon a long time ago O Besos (7-2) was fifth in the 2021 G1 Kentucky Derby. He has still never managed to win a stakes but came pretty close on his first start of 2023, off a seven-month layoff, when beaten a neck in a sprint stakes at Ellis. Stretching back out to a mile may not be the right idea, especially with guaranteed pace in the race.
Stage Raider (6-1) made a successful stakes debut at Ellis over a mile last time, the 19-1 outsider producing a clear career-best with Seize The Night (12-1) beaten two and a quarter lengths into third, now zero-for-four in stakes after coming through late without landing a blow. This is the logical next step for Stage Raider and he could figure, but mild caution is advised until he can string two such performances together.
Gulfstream Park allowance winner Skyro (10-1) has been on the bench since late January and was beaten a long way on his only stakes start at Kentucky Downs on the turf last year. There are just too many questions hanging over him to give him a chance today.
Ack Ack Stakes Odds & Racing Pick
The key may be the pace set-up, as ZOZOS could get his own way on the lead and parlay those tactics into a belated first success at Graded level.
|Horse||Jockey||Horse Racing Odds by Jazzsports|
|Seize the Night||Jon Kenton Court||+1200|
|O Besos||Tyler Gaffalione||+350|
|Three Technique||Rafael Bejarano||+300|
|Stage Raider||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||+600|
|Caddo River||Declan Cannon||+1500|
Lukas Classic Stakes
G2, $500,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo+, 5.26pm ET
The Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs has drawn a number of horses who are bidding to bounce back from a recent below-par performance, so Saturday’s feature under the twin spires is up for grabs for any horse who can flip the switch.
Take Rattle N Roll (7-5), who had seemed to be back on the up-and-up with three straight G3 wins and a G1 place until falling to earth in the 2023 G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga, in which he started favourite but barely raised a gallop when trailing in sixth.
On the evidence of his previous start in the 2023 G1 Stephen Foster at Ellis Park over a mile-eighth, when he came late as usual and missed by just a half-length, with longshot Happy American (8-1) rallying from last for third a length and a half further back, Rattle N Roll would have an excellent chance in this if he can rebound. There is also the extra positive of returning to a track where he is three-for-six, never off the board.
Fourth home in that Jockey Club Gold Cup, a length and a half ahead of Rattle N Roll, was Clapton (6-1), who should appreciate the class relief but has four and a quarter lengths to find with Rattle N Roll from the 2023 G3 Pimlico Special, in which they ran one-three back in May. Clapton has never won away from Gulfstream Park.
Possibly the most interesting contender is Americanrevolution (5-2), winner of the 2021 G1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack but zero-for-four since, including when fourth in a stakes at Saratoga last time on his first start for 11 months. He ran like a horse who lacked race-fitness and is likely to be plenty sharper now.
Conversely, Whelen Springs (12-1) is coming here on a roll after making his Graded-stakes breakthrough at Monmouth Park, finishing off strongly to take the 2023 G3 Philip H. Iselin over a mile-sixteenth by a half-length from Trademark (12-1).
He will need to move up to confirm that form as he is 6lb worse off with Trademark, who will be happy stretching out after some good performances at around a mile, notably in a stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis when he beat the front-running small-track specialist Five Star General (15-1), for whom the class hike is a concern, by a length and a half.
Warrant (8-1) should have won a mile-eighth stakes at Remington Park as odds-on favourite but got nailed by a longshot and beaten a head. He is a little out of his comfort zone at Graded level but the blinkers coming off may help, while Blue Devil (20-1) makes his stakes debut after taking an allowance at Saratoga by a nose and is hard to like in this tougher company.
Lukas Classic Stakes Odds & Free Betting Prediction
This could be the right spot for AMERICANREVOLUTION, who has bags of back-class and should move up plenty from his first start off an 11-month layoff.
|Horse||Jockey||Horse Racing Odds by Jazzsports|
|Happy American||James Graham||+800|
|Clapton||Cristian A. Torres||+600|
|Rattle N Roll||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||+140|
|Blue Devil||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||+2000|
|Whelen Springs||Jose C. Ferrer||+1200|
|Five Star General||Corey J. Lanerie||+1500|
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