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Zozos won the 2023 Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Stage Raider was 2nd, with Three Technique 3rd.
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A fast early pace helped set up the closing kick of Clapton, who flew down the Churchill Downs stretch to narrowly edge Trademark by a head at the wire and win Saturday’s 10th running of the $438,660 LukasClassic (Grade II) for 3-year-olds and up.
Clapton, ridden by Cristian Torres and trained by Chad Summers, stopped the teletimer in 1:48.79.
Summers won the Lukas Classic five years ago with the popular New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits.
“There were three races this weekend we could’ve ran in: the Woodward in New York, the Awesome Again in California and here in the Lukas Classic,” Summers said. “I tried to handicap them and see what race would fit this horse best. I figured there would be the most speed in this race. That benefitted our running style.”
A recent private purchase by Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid al Nuaimi’s RRR Racing, Clapton was sent to the post as the 8-1 fourth betting choice in the field of eight. In the early stages of the nine-furlong race, he had one horse beat as Five Star General and a tracking Americanrevolution rattled off swift early fractions of :23.12, :46.66 and 1:10.83.
Clapton tipped out six-wide at the top of the stretch and began to close into Trademark, who took over from the tired frontrunners with three-sixteenths of a mile to run. Clapton finally caught Trademark in the final jump.
“I was very happy with the way he was traveling,” said Torres, who won three races Saturday at Churchill Downs. “Around the half-mile pole I could tell I had a lot of horse beneath me. I tipped him outside at the quarter-pole and he kept coming with his run. It’s been a great day and a great meet here at Churchill. Winning these big races is a great feeling.”
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Overall, Clapton has won six of 24 starts with four seconds and six thirds. The $240,560 first prize boosted his career earnings to $823,450.
This was Clapton’s second stakes win this year. In April, he prevailed in the $150,000 Ghostzapper (GIII) over 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park. He finished fourth in his previous start, the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at Saratoga on Sept. 2.
His next target will be discussed by Summers and the owner.
“I’m so grateful to the owner for allowing me the opportunity to train this horse,” Summers said. “The goal is getting to the Dubai World Cup. If that means taking us to the Breeders’ Cup that would be great. But, the goal is getting him over to Dubai in March.”
Clapton returned $18.32, $6.90 and $5.34. Trademark, ridden by Martin Garcia, paid $8.72 and $6.14 as the 7-1 third betting choice. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Blue Devil in third under Ricardo Santana Jr. who paid $7.08 to show.
Rattle N Roll, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth and was followed by Happy American, Americanrevolution, Whelen Springs and Five Star General. Warrant was scratched.
Clapton, a chestnut son of Brethren out of the Afleet Alex mare Alexandra Rylee, was bred in Florida by Arindel.
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