INDIANA DERBY | PURSE: $500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16-miles
A. Stevens Miles Jr.'s homebred Neck 'n Neck closed strongly in Saturday's Grade 2, $513,600 Indiana Derby, rallying down the center of the track to post a one-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile test at Hoosier Park. With new jockey Brian Hernandez up, the Ian Wilkes-trained colt was off as the 9-2 third choice among 11 rivals and returned payoffs of $11.20, $4.80 and $2.80 to his supporters.
The dark bay son of Flower Alley recorded a pair of impressive wins at Churchill Downs during the spring/summer meet, including the Grade 3 Matt Winn, before a runner-up in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. Neck 'n Neck rebounded Saturday from a disappointing sixth in his most recent outing, the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, and has now earned $609,776 from a 13-4-2-0 career line.
Fed Biz, the 6-5 favorite, broke on top with Rafael Bejarano and contested early splits of :23 3/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12 3/5 with 73-1 outsider Junebugred. Neck 'n Neck rated near the back of the pack, but wasn't far behind in the bunched-up field, within five lengths of the lead during the early stages. He rallied five wide into contention on the far turn and swung out even further for the stretch run.
Fed Biz turned for home clinging to a short lead, with a host of challengers behind him, and battled gamely before weakening late. Neck 'n Neck determinedly powered his way to the lead in deep stretch and edged away in the final yards, stopping the teletimer in 1:42 3/5 on the good track.
Bourbon Courage, the 3-1 second choice off his five-length score in the Grade 2 Super Derby, closed belatedly to nip Fed Biz by a head for second. It was another length back to fourth-placer Morgan's Guerrilla, who was followed by Afford, Tritap, O'Prado Again, Easter Gift, Junebugred, Second City and Stealcase under the wire. Adirondack King was scratched.
The Kentucky-bred winner is the first foal out of the winning Storm Boot mare Bootery, a close relative to stakes winners Bendecida, Pleasantly Blessed and Fedra Gulch.