10/31/2007 11:00PM

It's Sun King's time of year

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - A critical upcoming race for a horse sometimes leads an owner or trainer to say, "This is his Breeders' Cup."

In the case of Sun King, the $200,000 Ack Ack Handicap on Saturday is his Breeders' Cup.

Last weekend was the first time in his career that Sun King had missed a Breeders' Cup. Now 5, Sun King competed in the Breeders' Cup at 2, 3, and 4, and only after losing a step or two was he withheld from the championship events last Saturday at Monmouth Park.

An earner of nearly $2.2 million for owner Tracy Farmer and trainer Nick Zito, Sun King will start from the outside post as the 121-pound highweight in a field of eight older horses in the Grade 3 Ack Ack, a one-mile race that shares the Saturday spotlight at Churchill with the Grade 2 Chilukki.

Sun King "is one of my favorite horses of all time," said Zito, who said he will be in from New York for the race. "We wanted to take him back to the mile and see what our options would be from there."

Sun King, with Julien Leparoux to ride, has tended to fare well in middle-distance races around one turn, with his fourth and most recent graded-stakes victory coming in the seven-furlong Commonwealth BC on the old dirt track at Keeneland in April 2006. Zito said he would consider the 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap at Churchill on Nov. 23 as a next start for Sun King if the horse runs well Saturday, although the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct the following day also is a logical option.

The opposition in the Ack Ack looks fairly capable, with Off Duty and Spotsgone likely to battle for early supremacy, followed by the rest of them, including Sun King. Among the others who could eventually make an impact are Casino Evil and Simon Pure, the one-two finishers in the Schaefer Mile four weeks ago at Hoosier Park, and Istan, a winner of four ungraded stakes this year, all for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Throng and Ryan's for Real round out the field.

The Ack Ack, named for the 1971 Horse of the Year, directly precedes the Chilukki as the ninth of 11 races. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.