10/29/2005 11:00PM

Straight Line takes Ack Ack on Churchill's opening day

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Four Footed Fotos
Straight Line wins the $112,200 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs on Sunday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Straight Line was no match for Vicarage in the Oct. 14 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland, finishing second, beaten 10 lengths. But a change in racetrack and surroundings led that outcome to be reversed in Sunday's opening-day $112,200 at Churchill Downs.

Stalking Vicarage through a pressured pace of 44.55 seconds and 1:08.89 in the 7 1/2-furlong Ack Ack, Straight Line was able to easily power past Vicarage in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths before a crowd of 10,625.

Winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, riding at Churchill Downs for the first time on a full-time basis, attributed the win to a favorable trip. "The pace set up for him better than last time," he said.

A move to Churchill Downs similarly helped. In his only prior start at Churchill Downs in the Iroquois Stakes last fall, Straight Line was a five-length winner. That race, like the Grade 3 Ack Ack, is a long one-turn race.

Vicarage, the 9-10 favorite, appeared over-eager early. He dragged jockey Rafael Bejarano to the lead from the start, and when 42-1 longshot Britt's Jules came alongside down the backstretch, he battled head to head with that rival.

The demanding fractions took a toll, with Straight Line rallying past him in the final furlong. Vicarage did manage to maintain clear of the rest of the pack, finishing 1 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Level Playingfield.

Straight Line, owned by Nancy Vanier and Cartwright Thoroughbreds, covered 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track that played quickly all afternoon in a stakes record 1:28.34. He paid $20.60.

His win gave 81-year-old trainer Harvey Vanier his 17th stakes victory at Churchill Downs, dating back to Admiral's Shield win in the 1970 Derby Trial. "It never gets too stale to win a race," he said. "It's beautiful."