Ack Ack Preview: Stage Raider Capable of Pulling off an Upset

Having already notched one “Win and You’re In” berth for the Breeders’ Cup with Natalma (G1) winner She Feels Pretty, trainer Cherie DeVaux looks to take down another when she sends out Stage Raider in the $400,000 Ack Ack (G3) on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

The Ack Ack, which offers the winner a fees-paid trip to Santa Anita for the BC Dirt Mile on Nov. 4, is one of three stakes races at Churchill on Saturday, along with the $500,000 Lukas Classic (G2) and the $200,000 Jefferson Cup, as the track winds up its abbreviated 13-day meet.

DeVaux, a former assistant to Chad Brown, took over Stage Raider’s training after the 5-year-old son of  Pioneerof the Nile made nine starts for the Eclipse Award-winning trainer, and promptly won the $100,000 R.A.  Cowboy Jones Stakes at Ellis Park, earning a career-best 111 Equibase Speed Figure in the process.

Leaving from post 4, Stage Raider will be ridden by regular jockey Brian Hernandez and was listed at 6-1 on the morning line.

Favored in the 1-mile Ack Ack is the Brad Cox-trained Zozos, who has won three of five starts this year including an overnight stakes at Churchill in May. Last out he finished fourth as the 1/2 favorite in the Phil Iselin (G3) in August at Monmouth Park. Florent Geroux has the mount aboard the 6-5 choice from post 5.

Expected to attract considerable support as well is Three Technique, third in last year’s edition of the Ack Ack. The veteran son of Mr. Speaker was a come-from-behind winner of the John A. Nerud (G2) last out on July 1 at Belmont Park, his second win in four 2023 starts.

Rafael Bejarano is aboard the 3-1 program choice from post 3.

O Besos will be making his second start of the year in the Ack Ack after finishing second by a neck in July’s Jeff Hall Memorial at Ellis Park in July. Fifth in the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1), the son of Orb will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post 2 as he goes in search of his first graded stakes win.

Rounding out the field are Seize the Night (12-1), Skyro 10-1) and Caddo River (15-1).

The picks: 1 Stage Raider 2 Three Technique 3 Zozos

The field for the $400,000 Ack Ack (G3), from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:

1 Seize the Night (Jon Court, S Jade Cunningham), 12-1
2 O Besos (Tyler Gaffalione, Greg Foley), 7-2
3 Three Technique (Rafael Bejarano, Jason Cook), 3-1
4 Stage Raider (Brian Hernandez, Cherie DeVaux), 6-1
5 Zozos (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox), 6-5
6 Skyro (James Graham, Brian Lynch), 10-1
7 Caddo River (Declan Cannon, D. Wayne Lukas), 15-1




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