Awesome Slew edges clear to win Ack Ack

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Awesome Slew got an ideal tune-up for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile when prevailing as widely expected in the 25th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack, the last of three stakes on a postcard-perfect Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.

Ridden by Corey Lanerie, Awesome Slew looped the field to enter contention at the quarter-pole, then gradually edged away from The Player to finish a one-turn mile in 1:35.02 over a fast track. He returned $3.20 as a heavy favorite in a field of nine.

"This seems like the perfect distance for him," said Norman Casse, assistant to and son of trainer Mark Casse. "We wanted to give him a little class relief today, hopefully build his confidence with a win. He's been running against some of the best horses in the country."

Awesome Slew was entered off runner-up finishes in back-to-back seven-furlong races, the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint and Grade 1 Forego. Allowed by Lanerie to settle early, the 4-year-old Florida-bred colt proved clearly superior when kept to steady urging down the stretch, prevailing in measured fashion. The Player, the 7-2 second choice under Calvin Borel, was a length behind the winner and another 9 1/4 lengths before Pinson, a 78-1 outsider.

Bred and owned by the Live Oak Plantation of Charlotte Weber, Awesome Slew, by Awesome Again, now has 5 wins from 16 starts and earnings of $952,940. He figures as perhaps one of the top four or five wagering choices in the Nov. 3 BC Dirt Mile at Del Mar.

Buff Bradley, trainer of The Player, said the colt is no longer under consideration for the Dirt Mile despite the solid effort.

The $2 exacta (4-7) paid $9.60, the $1 trifecta (4-7-6) returned $115.50, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-7-6-1) was worth $78.82.

Heavy favorites swept the three stakes, with Mr. Misunderstood ($3.20) winning the Jefferson Cup and Honorable Duty ($3.20) taking the Grade 3 Lukas Classic. The $1 pick three linking those races returned $6.

Sunday is closing day of the 11-day meet, with a mandatory pool dispersal in effect for jackpot wagers, most notably the Single 6, which stood at $78,527 at day's end. After Sunday, live action on this circuit moves to Keeneland for a 17-day meet that begins Friday.