ACK ACK HANDICAP | PURSE: $100,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 MILE
Pants On Fire drew away late to post a clear win in the Ack Ack Handicap Sept. 7 at Churchill Downs, completing the one-turn mile in a stakes-record time of 1:33.78.
The victory for George and Lori Hall's homebred is the second straight graded stakes score for Pants On Fire, a 5-year-old Jump Start horse who won the Monmouth Cup Stakes July 28. Carrying high weight of 121 pounds in the field of eight 3-year-olds and up, Pants On Fire lowered the stakes record mark of 1:34.08 set in the 2007 Ack Ack by Istan. The track mark of 1:33.31 was set last November by Infrattini.
After tracking in third through the far turn, jockey Paco Lopez swung out Pants On Fire for the stretch where early leader and 2-1 favorite Taptowne had opened a solid lead. But Pants On Fire, the second betting choice at 5-2, quickly gained ground, drew even just past midstretch, and then powered away to the 2 ¾-length victory.
"It was wonderful. It's good to see him continue to run in good form. We love this horse. He's a homebred. He's our first homebred to have some big success," George Hall said. "The [off the board finish] was obviously disappointing, but he's still running strong and we hope he's not hit the peak of his career yet."
Longshot Right to Vote led early while Taptowne tracked in second with Pants On Fire and Brethren also close in the leading pack of four through a quarter mile in :22.68 and a half-mile in :45.25. Taptowne showed another gear to open a clear lead between calls in early stretch, clicking off six furlongs in a smart 1:09.38, but Pants On Fire showed a turn of foot not possessed by his rivals.
Trained by Kelly Breen, the Monmouth Cup victory had been the first graded stakes score for Pants On Fire since his 3-year-old season, when he captured the Pegasus Stakes and the Louisiana Derby. Breen said he will consider the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for the son of Jump Start.
"We're coming off of a couple of good wins and, knock on wood, he stays healthy, we could go there," Breen said. "George and I have been talking about a possible trip to Japan. They've been talking to us about coming over for a race there and I know it's a different direction they run in, but it would be really neat to have a horse take you to places I've never been to. So, we'll see."
Pants On Fire returned $7 for the win, $3.40 to place and $2.60 to show. Clovertowne Farm's Taptowne held second, returning $3.20 and $2.20 while George Kerr's Good Morning Diva rallied for third, paying $2.60 to show. Rounding out the field of eight were Sabercat, Looking Cool, Moe Man, and Brethren, who stopped.
Pants On Fire was bred in Kentucky by the Halls' K & G Stables. He is out of the Cape Town mare Cabo de Noche. The dark bay won for the eighth time in 22 lifetime races and boosted his earnings to $1,197,635.