Updated on 05/09/2011 12:14PM

Churchill Downs: Aikenite nails Apriority

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Audrey C. Crosby
John Velazquez gets Aikenite up in the final jump on Saturday in the Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When they met in March at Gulfstream, Apriority trounced Aikenite, presumably putting him higher in the pecking order in the sprint division. When they met on Saturday, in the Grade 2, $300,000 Churchill Downs Stakes, Aikenite showed that he has indeed caught up.

In a stirring stretch drive that saw three horses have the lead in the last 50 yards, Aikenite nailed Apriority on the line to win by a nose with Ibboyee a half-length back in third. It was another nose to Capt. Candyman Can, who looked like the winner at the sixteenth pole.

Aikenite, a 4-year-old son of Yes It's True, won his second consecutive Grade 2 stakes having taken the Commonwealth at Keeneland on April 16. Before that, Aikenite was winless in 11 stakes tries, including an eighth-place finish in last fall's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

"I think he's the best he's ever been," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Aikenite for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable. "The break after the Breeders' Cup did him a lot of good. He came back - he's been very willing."

The key to the win may have been jockey John Velazquez's ability to get Aikenite from the rail to an outside path down the backside. He was in eighth position early while Captain Cherokee, Delong Road, and Le Grand Cru duked it out through a half-mile in 45.00 seconds.

Capt. Candyman Can, under Calvin Borel, made an early four-wide move to the lead at the quarter pole, but Apriority, under Ramon Dominguez, rallied four wide and Aikenite came with a six-wide run. It looked like Apriority was going to get there, but Aikenite, perhaps spurred on by his stablemate Ibboyee, who came alongside him, surged at the wire to get the win. Aikenite covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.40 and returned $28.60 to win.

"I worked my way out going to the half-mile pole. I worked my way just enough out where I was comfortable enough that when the quarter pole came, I went around the horses and as soon as he got in the clear he started running," Velazquez said.

David Fawkes, the trainer of Apriority, felt his horse had a beautiful trip and just was unlucky to lose.

"He ran a hell of a race and just got caught," Fawkes said. "He definitely belongs with this group."

Pletcher said he may consider the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 30 with Aikenite.