Notes & Quotes From the Lukas Classic, Ack Ack & Jefferson Cup: Mocito Rojo, Mr. Freeze & Spectacular Gem

(Jockey Gerald Melancon and his steed, Mocito Rojo, grit out win in the G3 Lukas Classic / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Churchill Downs Media Team:

G3 Lukas Classic:

Wayne T. Davis’ ultra-consistent 5-year-old Mocito Rojo invaded from Louisiana and wore down Silver Dust in deep stretch to win Saturday night’s $250,000 Lukas Classic presented by Budweiser (Grade III) by a neck – the highlight of a stakes tripleheader on a special “Downs After Dark” nighttime card that attracted a crowd of 17,053.

Ridden by Gerard Melancon and trained by Shane Wilson, Mocito Rojo ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.91 to collect his seventh stakes win and fifth in a row this year.

Overall, he’s won 17 of 25 starts with three seconds and one third, and the $147,250 first prize boosted his earnings to $797,000.

Mocito Rojo won the $100,000 Evangeline Mile and $75,000 Delta Mile in 2018. His campaign this year includes wins in the $60,000 Owner Appreciation Cup at Delta Downs, $300,000 Steve Sexton Mile (GIII) at Lone Star Park, $100,000 Evangeline Mile and $175,000 Governor’s Cup at Remington Park.

Owner Wayne T. Davis — Mocito Rojo (1st):

“I think I’m still dreaming,” said 90-year-old Davis. “I’ve been waiting all my life to have a horse like this. He won’t be ignored anymore. I think he has more heart than Secretariat – just doesn’t weigh nearly as much. We’ll take things one step at a time but I am just so thrilled to be here.”

Jockey Gerald Melancon — Mocito Rojo:

“The races are always tough when you head to Kentucky and tonight proved it,” Melanconsaid. “(Trainer) Bret (Calhoun)’s horse (Silver Dust) really dug in and tried hard the length of the stretch. I thought I finally had him in deep stretch. I haven’t been to Churchill since 1985 but now it’s worth it.”

(Mr. Freeze winning the G3 Ack Ack Stakes / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

G3 Ack Ack Stakes:

Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Mr Freezecircled three-wide on the turn for home, grabbed the lead at the quarter pole and held a rallying Thirstforlife at bay in deep stretch to win Saturday night’s 27th renewal of the $150,000 Ack Ack presented by GE Appliances (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by 1 ½ lengths.

Mr Freeze, a 4-year-old son of To Honor and Serve, ran one mile on a fast track in 1:34.11.

Jockey Robby Albarado — Mr. Freeze (1st):

“Dale (Romans) and his team had this horse ready to go tonight,” Albarado said. “He was pretty forward tonight in the race and just carried an easy rhythm around the entire track. He has progressed and matured, as he’s gotten older. I’ve ridden him in the past and he seems like he’s really finding his stride and putting it all together.”

Trainer Dale Romans — Mr. Freeze: 

“Credit really goes to our owners for letting us take our time with this horse and getting him back to his real self,” Romans said. “Tonight he really ran a strong effort in a fast time. We’ll have to see moving forward where we could end up with him but the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile could certainly be in the discussion.”

Five of the last six Ack Ack winners – Pants On Fire (2013), Tapiture (2015), Tom’s Ready(2016), Awesome Slew (2017) and Seeking the Soul (2018) – used the race as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

(Spectacular Gem and rider James Graham win the Jefferson Cup / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Jefferson Cup:

It was minor redemption for the husband-wife team of owner Candie and trainer Jimmy Baker as Spectacular Gem collected his first stakes win with a wire-to-wire win in Saturday night’s 43rd running of the $125,000 Jefferson Cup (Listed) for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

Spectacular Gem did the same thing in his previous start, the $200,000 Caesars at Indiana Grand at odds of 35-1, but was disqualified from first to fourth for interference.

This time it was smooth sailing.

Jockey James Graham — Spectacular Gem (1st):

“This horse really settled well today taking off the blinkers,” Graham said. “Going longer tonight I think that really helped him and he just kept on motoring home. He’s a really nice horse and I’m thrilled for Jimmy.”

Trainer Jimmy Baker — Spectacular Gem:

“This was a bit of redemption tonight for him after getting taken down last time,” said Jimmy Baker, who collected his first stakes win since Will’s Wildcat won the $88,300 Jimmy V. at Churchill Downs on the undercard of Breeders’ Cup Friday in 2011. “After the Caesars, we decided if we went to the Jefferson Cup we’d take off the blinkers because he would be going the extra furlong. That really helped him. He worked well last week without them and proved his talent tonight.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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