Multiple graded stakes-winning filly Pure Clan makes her much-anticipated 2009 debut June 6 in the $100,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs, but will have to face accomplished rivals Acoma and Tizaqueena, both of whom have shown good form this year.
A field of seven fillies and mares will take to the turf in the 1 1/16-mile Mint Julep, which serves as the feature on Churchill’s 11-race program. Post time is set for 5:30 p.m. EDT.
Owned by a partnership that includes her breeder, Lewis Lakin, and IEAH Stable, Pure Clan was last seen when finishing ninth in the Oct. 24 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita. It was the only time in 11 lifetime starts that the daughter of Pure Prize—Gather The Clan, by General Assembly, finished off the board.
Among Pure Clan’s wins were the Pocahontas (gr. III) and Golden Rod (gr. II) on Churchill's dirt in 2007, and the American Oaks (gr. IT) on the Hollywood Park turf in July. The chestnut also won the Regret (gr. IIIT) over the Churchill grass last summer.
Trained by Bob Holthus, Pure Clan is 6-2-2 from 10 starts with earnings of more than $1 million. She has been working steadily over the Churchill dirt in preparation for her seasonal debut. With regular rider Julien Leparoux in New York for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Pure Clan will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan. They drew post 1 and she will carry top weight of 122 pounds.
The other multiple graded stakes winner in the field is Helen Alexander’s Acoma, but the Empire Maker filly is coming off a disappointing third-place finish in the April 4 Apple Blossom (gr. I) as the 2-5 favorite. The 4-year-old bay filly came into that race a winner of three straight - the Valley View (gr. IIIT) and Mrs. Revere (gr. IIT) on turf, and the Azeri (gr. III) on the Oaklawn dirt.
Trained by David Carroll and to be ridden by Corey Lanerie for the first time, the late-closing Acoma may have been a victim of a soft pace in the Apple Blossom. She is likely to get a quicker pace to run at in the Mint Julep thanks to Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena, a winner of three consecutive races.
The 4-year-old daughter of Tiznow likes to go to the lead, as she did in her optional claiming and Fortin Handicap wins on the Fair Grounds lawn earlier this year. Most recently, Tizaqueena took over just after a quarter-mile in the Churchill Distaff Mile (gr. IIT) on May 2 and went on to triumph by three parts of a length in her graded stakes debut.
Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride Tizaqueena for trainer Michael Stidham. They will break from post 7.
Also to consider is Glen Hill Farm’s Closeout, winner of the Pucker Up (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park and a solid fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland last fall. The 4-year-old Repriced filly will make her seasonal debut for Tom Proctor.
$100,000 Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 5:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Pure Clan (KY), S Bridgmohan, 122, R E Holthus
2. In My Glory (KY), J L Castanon, 113, E Miranda
3. Acoma (KY), J Lanerie, 120, D M Carroll
4. Sugar Baby Love (GER), J K Court, 114, R E Nicks
5. Closeout (FL), L Melancon, 116, T F Proctor
6. Day of Victory (KY), L J Sterling Jr., 114, R E Holthus
7. Tizaqueena (KY), B J Hernandez Jr., 119, M Stidham