July 22, 2024

Knicks Go big favorite in Lukas Classic; Beau Liam makes stakes debut in Ack Ack

Knicks Go wins the Whitney Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Lukas Classic (G3) — Race 8 (4:22 p.m. ET)

Knicks Go, the top-rated older horse in the nation, is scheduled to complete his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) preparations Saturday in the $400,000 Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile feature attracted a field of six, but Knicks Go is expected to start an overwhelming odds-on favorite following recent blowout wins in the Cornhusker H. (G3) and Whitney (G1).

Victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland last fall, Knicks Go followed up with an impressive tally in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) in January. However, the Brad Cox trainee suffered reversals in the Saudi Cup (G1) and Metropolitan H. (G1), both one-turn races, before righting the ship during the summer.

Knicks Go is winless in three prior trips under the Twin Spires, but all occurred before his arrival in the Cox barn over the winter of 2019-20.

Multiple graded winner Tacitus will be making only his second start of the season, and first since finishing seventh in the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup. The Bill Mott-trained gray’s last visit to the winner’s circle occurred in the 2020 Suburban (G2) over 1 1/4 miles.

Sprawl and Shared Sense enter off wins in the West Virginia Governor’s (G3) and Tri State S., respectively, with the latter’s score his first since taking the Oklahoma Derby (G3) a year ago. Independence Hall invades from California after a modest fifth-place effort in the Pacific Classic (G1), while New Orleans Classic (G2) winner Chess Chief has generally proven less effective outside Fair Grounds.

Ack Ack S. (G3) — Race 10 (5:26 p.m. ET)

The $300,000 Ack Ack S. (G3), a one-turn mile, could yield a starter or two for the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar.

The late-developing three-year-old Beau Liam, who’s won all three outings to date for owner-breeder Stonestreet and trainer Steve Asmussen, is the likely favorite in his stakes debut. The son of Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map recently romped by six lengths in a second-level allowance at Saratoga against older rivals.

Another son of Liam’s Map, Rushie, has track-and-distance experience having captured the 2020 Pat Day Mile (G2)). Third last out in the nine-furlong Charles Town Classic (G2), Rushie’s best run this term was a narrow second-place finish to By My Standards in the April 10 Oaklawn Mile.

Stepping up in class are Plainsman, first or second in his last four starts; Exculpatory, a stakes winner over a two-turn seven furlongs at Charles Town last time; and Aloha West, a third-level allowance scorer at Saratoga mot recently. Owning a touch of back class are Mo Mosa, who upset C Z Rocket in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) in May, and Mr Dumas, a Grade 3 winner who’s spent most of his career on the turf.’