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Churchill Downs: Mister Marti Gras overcomes slow pace to take Ack Ack
By Byron King
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Late-running Mister Marti Gras is a top-class horse when he gets a hot pace to aid his rally. And as he proved in winning Friday’s Grade 3, $109,700 Ack Ack Handicap on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Churchill Downs, he is apparently just as good even when he doesn’t.
Despite dawdling early fractions set in the 1 1/16-mile Ack Ack set by favored Gladding, Mister Mardi Gras was able to close to victory from sixth down the middle of the track, edging Alma d’Oro and Glenwood Canyon in a tight finish.
Gladding, winner of the Antonio Stakes, faded to fourth while making his first start since April even though he was able to set splits of 25.53 seconds, 51.0,3 and 1:15.25 in the race over a drying-out main track labeled muddy.
Mister Marti Gras utilized more of a sustained rally to win the Ack Ack, rather than just blow past the field with sudden burst. He moved past runner-up Alma d’Oro late to notch a half-length decision, with Glenwood Canyon another length behind in third.
“It took a while time to go by them,” said jockey Julien Leparoux. “But I was pretty confident.”
Mister Mardi Gras won his fourth race of the year in taking the Ack Ack, and his second stakes race of 2011. This past summer he won the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap on Polytrack at Arlington Park.
Last time out, he was a close fourth in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, validating to some degree the form from that race, a contest won by Breeders’ Cup Classic entrant Headache.
The winner, a 4-year-old own gelded son of Belong to Me, raced 1 1/16 miles in slow time of 1:45.68. He paid $7.80 as the second betting choice.
Trainer Chris Block, who trains Mister Marti Gras for Lothenback Stables, now has an even larger prize in his sight: the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25.
“Assuming he comes out of this race in good shape, which you always hope they do, that would be something we’d definitely think about,” Block said.
He won the Clark last year with Giant Oak when Successful Dan was disqualified from first and placed second behind Giant Oak for interference in the stretch.
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