Ack Ack

1971 Horse of the Year

Ack Ack, a bay son of Battle Joined foaled February 24, 1966, was bred by Captain Harry F. Guggenheim's Cain Hoy Stable. Outside of the racing world, Captain Guggenheim was instrumental in the success of America's space program, financially backing early research in the days before NASA. As a sportsman, Captain Guggenheim had raced many stakes quality horses, including the notorious Dark Star, who upset Native Dancer in the 1953 Kentucky Derby. Cain Hoy's Bald Eagle was victorious in two runnings of the Washington, D.C., International, and was named Champion Handicap Horse in 1960. Never Bend was the Juvenile Champion in 1962, and the filly Hidden Talent won the Kentucky Oaks in 1959. The additional stakes winners Victory Morn, Turn-to, Heavenly Body, Make Sail, and One-Eyed King also carried Captain Guggenheim's silks; in fact, Cain Hoy bred forty horses that became stakes winners in the U.S.

As a two year old, Ack Ack was trained by Frank Bonsal, and in a conservative campaign he earned $6075, winning once and finishing second twice in three starts.

At three, he won the Bahamas Stakes, then broke the track record in the Derby Trial, running the mile in 1:34 2/5. Leaving the classic races to Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters, Ack Ack then took the Withers Stakes. He also won the Arlington Classic, with his seasonal earnings reaching $177,491 in eleven starts. He had won seven times and run second three times. As Capt. Guggenheim's health began to worsen, Cain Hoy held a dispersal sale. Ack Ack, whose reserve price was allegedly one million dollars, was one of the few not sold.

Ack Ack

Instead, Ack Ack was turned over to Charlie Whittingham, and his four year old season included victories in the Autumn Days Handicap and the Los Angeles Handicap. He also set a track record at Del Mar, running five and a half furlongs in 1:02 1/5. With four wins in five starts and $59,775 in earnings, Ack Ack had performed well, but his best was yet to come.

After running second behind Jungle Savage in his five year old season debut, the Palos Verdes Handicap, Ack Ack avenged the defeat with a victory in the San Carlos Handicap. For rider Bill Shoemaker, the win meant that he had scored in every major stakes race offered at Santa Anita. He had been unable to capture the San Carlos in seventeen previous attempts, although he had six Santa Anita Handicap wins to his credit.

The Cain Hoy runner carried the high weight of 126 pounds, giving six pounds to Jungle Savage and beating him by a length and three quarters. The time of 1:21 tied the track record for seven furlongs, set nineteen years before by Eight Thirty's son Bolero. It was to be Ack Ack's final start in the silks of his breeder, however, for Captain Harry F. Guggenheim passed away shortly after.

E.E. Fogelson, who owned Forked Lightning Ranch in partnership with his wife, actress Greer Garson, paid $500,000 for most of the five-year-old son of Battle Joined on January 30. Charlie Whittingham retained a share, and continued to condition the horse. One week later, Ack Ack carried the Forked Lightning silks to post in the San Pasqual Handicap. Ack Ack, with Bill Shoemaker in the irons once again, he overcame a troubled start, took control in the first turn, opened up a six length lead on the backstretch, and held off Delaware Chief to win by three-quarters of a length. The mile and a sixteenth race, which Ack Ack clocked in 1:41 2/5, was the dark bay's first two-turn event since 1969.

The next time out, Ack Ack was asked to run a little further, going to post as the even money favorite in the mile and an eighth San Antonio Stakes. Carrying top weight, he took command quickly and won as he pleased, scoring by three and a quarter lengths in 1:47. It was Bill Shoemaker's fourth win of the day, and his seventh score in the San Antonio. From there, it was on to the Big 'Cap, where Ack Ack would try to stretch his speed for a mile and a quarter.

The field for the Santa Anita Handicap included War Heim, winner of the Strub Stakes, as well as the Chilean-bred Cougar II, who later raised his earnings mark above one million dollars while on his way to divisional honors in 1972.

Ack Ack, under the impost of 130 pounds, led from the start and overcame fatigue to hold off the powerful closing drive of Cougar II and win by a length and a half. A very pleased Charlie Whittingham said:

"A mile and one quarter will be as far as he goes, but that is plenty good enough."

Next came victory in the Hollywood Express Handicap. At only five and a half furlongs, it was somewhat less of a challenge for the brilliant sprinter, despite the weight assignment of 130 pounds. In Hollywood Park's American Handicap, Ack Ack again extended himself, setting a new course record of 1:47 1/5 for a mile and an eighth.

In his final career start, Ack Ack carried high weight of 134 pounds in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Nearest the favorite in weight assignments were previous Hollywood Gold Cup winner Figonero and the successful mare Manta, who carried 117 pounds each. Previously, the highest weight carried by a Hollywood Gold Cup winner was 133 pounds, the burden carried by both Seabiscuit and Challedon in their Gold Cup successes.

Charlie Whittingham, who also handled the talented Cougar II, convinced owner Mary F. Jones to scratch her horse, who was showing a preference for the turf, and run him instead in the upcoming Sunset Handicap. Also kept in the barn was Burt Bacharach's Advance Guard.

Ack Ack performed brilliantly, taking the lead from Judgable at the quarter and opening up a six length lead on the backstretch. Able to catch his breath on the turn, he held off the closing drives of Comtal and Manta to win by almost four lengths in a spectacular 1:59 4/5.

Apart from the brilliant performance, the win was significant in several ways. The $100,000 purse made Ack Ack the season's current leading money winner and it put rider Bill Shoemaker over the million dollar mark for the Hollywood Park meeting. Two other horses had pulled the Santa Anita Handicap-Hollywood Gold Cup double, the first being Charles S. Howard's Kayak II in 1939, and the second being *Nasrullah's brilliant son Noor in 1950. Charlie Whittingham happily observed:

"I guess I ran the right horse. He's one helluva horse. He has to be to carry that weight and take off with it the way he did."

Despite the fact that the season was cut short by colic, the spectacular season resulted in Horse of the Year honors, as well as divisional titles as both Champion Older Horse and Champion Sprinter of 1971. Ack Ack's career earnings totaled $636,641, with nineteen victories in twenty-seven starts and a winning average of seventy percent.

Standing stud at Claiborne Farm, Ack Ack sired more than fifty stakes winners, including multi-millionaire Broad Brush, whose victories included the Santa Anita Handicap; Youth, who won the French Derby and earned championships both in France and the United States; and the additional stakes winners Ack's Secret, Rascal Lass, Caline, and Trinidad's Horse of the Year Ackstatic. His daughters produced Epsom Derby winner Benny the Dip and the champion mare North Sider. He became a member of the Hall of Fame in 1986. Ack Ack passed away on December 28, 1990, and is buried at Claiborne Farm.

Ack Ack's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 27 19 6 0 $636,641

Ack Ack, 1966 dark bay colt

Battle Joined Armegeddon Alsab Good Goods
Winds Chant
Fighting Lady Sir Gallahad III
Lady Nicotine
Ethel Walker Revoked Blue Larkspur
Gala Belle
Ethel Terry Reaping Reward
Mary Terry
Fast Turn Turn-to Royal Charger Nearco
Sun Princess
Source Sucree Admiral Drake
Cherokee Rose Princequillo Prince Rose
The Squaw II Sickle

Recommended titles include: Champions from the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 of the 20th Century from Blood-Horse, and Man O' War: Thoroughbred Legends #1 by Edward L. Bowen, as well as Seabiscuit on DVD .
Seabiscuit DVD

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