A Derby Tease? Aces N Kings, Part II

As some of you may remember, in June I wrote about Aces N Kings, an interesting story about a 2-year-old who was sired by a teaser, Jet Phone. The blog received a positive response, mostly because it was kind of an oddball story and there was a connection to superstar Rachel Alexandra. Here is a link to the story again to help refresh your memory.

The story of Aces N Kings would have been a good one even if it ended in June. At the time he was 3-for-3, all of them in main track sprints at Lone Star. I put him in my watch mail, but thought nothing else of the horse, other than he was a cool, little gelding with a neat story behind him. That's where the story was likely going to end for me until August, when I noticed that Aces N Kings had upped his record to 5-for-5, his last victory in the one-mile Sunny's Halo Stakes on the Louisiana Downs turf. I was told to look for him to stretch out again for his next start, the 1 1/16-mile Sunday Silence Stakes over the same course.

Though I missed the race when it was run live on Sept. 25, I went back and watched it a couple of days later. When I did, I was extremely impressed. Though he was beaten a head as the 3-10 favorite, it was a remarkable performance by Aces N Kings. Take a look for yourself. He is the 5 horse, the one that gets an early lead, then finds trouble on the turn and looks like he has no chance in mid-stretch before unleashing a furious late run. Once again, I was intrigued and decided to call "Scooter" Dodwell, the man who raised and trains the gelding.

Last month, Dodwell told me to look for Aces N Kings to return to dirt for his next start--the $1 million Delta Jackpot on Nov. 20. Like he did in our initial conversation in June, Dodwell reiterated that Aces N Kings is still the fastest horse he has ever trained, including Rachel Alexandra, but even he was surprised that he has shown the ability to stretch out beyond one turn. He said they would have run him in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf if he had been nominated, but since he wasn't they owed it to themselves to give him a chance in the Delta Jackpot.

Well, here we are. The grade III Delta Jackpot is on Saturday and look for Aces N Kings not only show up in the entries, but to be one of the favorites for the 1 1/16-mile race run over two turns. Dodwell, who still trains the horse for his parents but uses Henry B. Johnson Jr. to saddle him on race day, has secured a new rider you may have heard of for the Jackpot--Calvin Borel. Hmmm...this is starting to get very interesting.

When I talked to him on Tuesday, Dodwell was optimistic that Aces N Kings would run well on Saturday.

"I worked him Monday and he looked as good as I've ever seen him," he said. "I feel good about his chances. He should like the track and have no problems with the bullring there. Unless he gets outclassed, I think he will be right in the mix.

"He's about 16 hands right now; not real big, but he has long strides. He's the type of horse that can go from average speed to full speed in one jump. He's real push button. Even if he doesn't win, Calvin has so much experience that he will be able to tell us what we have with him and what caliber horse he is."

Dodwell still feels that Aces N Kings is a little better on turf and can be a stakes-caliber turf sprinter. But he admits a win in the Delta Jackpot would put turf sprinting on hold, at least for a while. Though he was reluctant to dream aloud, I'll do it for him. What if Aces N Kings should happen to win the Jackpot? All of a sudden we have gone from a neat, little oddball story about a horse that was sired by a teaser to a horse that would be 6-for-7 and with enough graded earnings to qualify for the...yes, I'm going to say it...the Kentucky Derby.

Okay, I know I'm getting a little crazy here. In all likelihood this horse wants no part of 10 furlongs in May at Churchill Downs. But can you imagine the story even if this horse should somehow make it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May? You can't write a better story. A gelding sired by a teaser in Texas, by the same guy who broke Rachel Alexandra, ridden by Calvin Borel who would be in search of his third straight Derby win. That's too good to be true.

When I brought up the dream to Dodwell he said, "I see they are doing a movie Mine That Bird. If we ever made it to that level, I think our story has even him beat. Ours is even more rags to riches than that."

Right now it's still only a dream. But I will be watching on Saturday and hoping Aces N Kings can keep defying the odds.

For the record, Aces N Kings has propelled Jet Phone from a teaser to a registered sire standing for $1,000 at Clarence Scharbauer's Valor Farm in Pilot Point, Texas. Aces N Kings is currently still his only foal to run.

Stay tuned.

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