Ack Ack Handicap 2016 Preview

This is an incredible weekend of top notch racing with numerous Stakes races including many GR 1 events from coast to coast. A race that really caught my eye is the GR 3 Ack Ack Handicap at a flat mile at Churchill Downs. This race features the return of last year’s champion sprinter Runhappy after a 9 month layoff. In post position order:

  1. 4-1 Iron Fist :6 Best. Fading pattern. He returned to the races after 9 months on the bench posting a lackluster 10.9 going 6 ½ furlongs, although he did have trouble at the start. That race was very likely just a prep, and I do expect improvement as he stretches out. Very good connections. Worth a look.

 

  1. 10-1 The Truth Or Else:9 Best. Fading pattern. He posted that 3.9 Best at 6 furlongs in July after a 2 month break, however he then faded in his last two. He posted some fairly decent Route Numbers last year. Solid connections. Needs to turn things around.

 

  1. 8-1 Tom’s Ready: 0 Best. Paired his Best. He finished mid-pack in the Kentucky Derby and followed that up with a nice score in a GR 2 at Belmont. He was then off for 2 ½ months before being well beaten in a GR 1 at Saratoga. Decent connections. I do like his closing style, and as a 3YO, I expect that he will continue to improve. Could be very tough with another step forward!

 

  1. 12-1 Mr. Z: 8 Best. Long layoff. He ran some solid Numbers last year, but he has been on the bench for 10 months. Connections have modest stats. Will need a big race after 10 months away.

 

  1. 1-2 Runhappy: -0.6 Best. Long layoff. Based on his Numbers and Class alone, Runhappy would figure to decimate this group. He won last year’s BC Sprint, and followed that with his -0.6 Best in a 7 furlong GR 1 at Santa Anita last December. At issue is the 9 month layoff, and that his only try beyond 7 furlongs, was also his only loss, by 21 lengths! The connections have said that they are pointing for the BC Mile this year, and there is no doubt that Runhappy is a marvelous animal. I just am very reluctant to bet any horse off of such a long layoff, and I am doubly reticent to back a 1-2 shot at a distance where he has never been successful. If he runs anywhere near his Best, the race is for second; however there are serious concerns.   

 

  1. 8-1 Schivarelli: 3.3 Best. One race regression. After posting that quick 3 Best, he bounced sharply in the GR 1 Forego in late August at Saratoga. With 5 weeks to recoup, it is likely that he can turn things around, which could make him competitive. Solid connections; however he also is stretching out from 7 furlongs to a Mile. If able to return to his previous marching pattern, he could be competitive.

 

Summary

Runhappy has vastly superior Numbers. At issue is that he is coming off a long layoff, has never been successful at the distance, and is in new hands. At 1-2, I find these to be serious considerations. I will most likely wager another horse to show, and if Runhappy does not finish in the money, the show payoffs could be boxcars. Tom’s Ready and Schivarelli appear to be likely to run well.

Numbers Guy