11/02/2011 2:26PM

Churchill: Ack Ack pace should favor Gladding

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Those looking to see how speed is holding on Breeders’ Cup Friday at Churchill Downs should get an early barometer in the third race with the running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap.

A 1 1/16-mile dirt race, the Ack Ack drew a field of seven and will be relatively short on pace, with the classy Gladding and Nacho Friend being the only customary front-runners. Should Gladding cruise on the lead, the race could potentially foreshadow success for speed horses in dirt Breeders’ Cup races later in the day.

Not that Gladding, winner of the Grade 2 San Antonio last winter at Santa Anita, is a sure thing. Besides facing six legitimate opponents, he also must overcome a layoff dating back to April, when he was second in the Grade 3 Texas Mile.

“We were going to go to the Cornhusker,” trainer John Sadler said, referring to the June 25 stakes at Prairie Meadows. “But he hurt his stifle, and we had to give him a bit of time off.”

Sadler said he expects Gladding to be ready off the bench after a series of quick works at Santa Anita, capped by a seven-furlong breeze in 1:25.60 on Oct. 29.

The strength of the opposition facing Gladding rests in closers such as Mister Mardi Gras, Glenwood Canyon, and Demarcation. Demarcation won the Ack Ack in 2009 and finished second in this race last year. He was also a dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 River City Handicap on the grass at Churchill in 2008.“Sound old horses like him don’t come around very often,” trainer Paul McGee said.

− Byron King

Jimmy V.: Southern Dude steps up

Midwest Thoroughbreds, the racing venture of Chicago-area businessman Rich Papiese, definitely has the quantity thing down. Leading owner in the U.S. with 310 wins in 2010, Midwest sits atop the national owner standings again this year and already has accumulated 337 victories.

As for quality, Southern Dude carries the Midwest torch. A 3-year-old trained by Roger Brueggemann, Southern Dude has won his first three races by more than 10 lengths combined, the wins coming at three venues and over Polytrack, Tapeta, and dirt. The time seems ripe for a step into stakes, a step Southern Dude takes Friday in the Jimmy V. Stakes at Churchill.

Southern Dude is part of a 12-horse field that outshines the race’s $85,000 purse. Will’s Wildcat is 2-2 at Churchill. Uncle Brent won the $100,000 Northern Spur earlier this year at Oaklawn. Matthewsburg exits a win in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint, albeit over Turfway Polytrack. Artefacto, a Calder shipper, also has started his career with three open-lengths wins. Fast Bullet scored by more than six lengths Oct. 9 at Santa Anita making his career debut for trainer Bob Baffert.

Southern Dude’s versatile running style could lead to a favorable stalking trip. He has turned in two fast workouts over the laboring Hawthorne strip since easily winning a quickly run six-furlong allowance race there Oct. 1. Brueggemann is enjoying an excellent fall, but his competence and Southern Dude’s overall body of work might go underappreciated by Breeders Cup bettors focused on nationally known operations.

− Marcus Hersh