Acoma is the most accomplished contender in the Locust Grove field.

Acoma is the most accomplished contender in the Locust Grove field.

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

Acoma Stands Out in Locust Grove Handicap

The filly has won five of her six races at Churchill Downs.

A full field of fillies and mares—highlighted by multiple graded stakes winner Acoma—will go postward in the Locust Grove Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs July 3.

The one-mile race, which is the ninth on the card that day, is slated for 4:54 p.m. (EDT).

Acoma, who is by far the most accomplished contender in the Locust Grove field, enters the race off a game, second-place effort in the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill, where she finished just three quarters of a length behind Hot Cha Cha. That race was the only loss in six starts at  the Louisville track for Acoma, who was coming off a six-month layoff.

“She’s training very well; she came out of (the Mint Julep) in great shape,” said trainer David Carroll of the daughter of Empire Maker , who also won last year’s Mint Julep and three other graded races at Churchill, including the 2008 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT). Kentucky-bred Acoma is a homebred campaigned by Helen Alexander and her mother, Helen Groves.

“I thought she ran a winning race, considering it was her first race in six months,” said Carroll of the Mint Julep. “She finished up strong and galloped out well, and we’re looking for a similar race out of her this time. Our main goal is to get to the Beverly D. (gr. IT, at Arlington Park Aug. 21) in the best shape possible.”

Robby Albarado has the riding assignment on versatile Acoma, who boasts an overall record of 8-2-2 from 15 starts and has won on dirt, turf, and synthetic surfaces. The mare, who is highweighted at 121 pounds, will break from post 4 in the 12-horse Locust Grove field.

“It’s a full field, so we’re going to need some luck, but she’s going into the race in great shape, so we’re looking forward to it,” said Carroll.

The two horses that appear to pose the biggest threat to Acoma are other graded stakes winners Danzon and Keertana.

Danzon, a seasoned, 7-year-old daughter of Royal Academy, will make her first start for Alfred Nuckols Jr. and James Baker, who claimed her for $80,000 in her last start, an allowance optional claiming event at Churchill June 4. She previously was campaigned by trainer Joseph Allen and owner Kellyn Gorder. The dark bay or brown mare sports a record of 9-4-6 from 28 starts, which includes a group III victory while in France in 2006 and a score in the 2007 Kentucky Cup Distaff Stakes (gr. IIIT). While she has won or placed in all six of her starts this year, Danzon has not captured a stakes since prevailing in the 2009 Belle-Meade Plantation Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs.

Danzon, who will break from the 6 post, will be piloted for the first time by jockey Alex Solis in the Locust Grove.

Keertana, a talented daughter of Johar, found graded stakes success at Churchill in the 2009 Regret (gr. IIIT). Conditioned by Thomas Proctor for Barbara Hunter, Keertana was most recently third behind Acoma in the June 5 Mint Julep. She will be ridden by Miguel Mena in the Locust Grove and will break from post 7.

Rounding out the field are C. S. Silk, a 2008 grade III winner; other stakes winners Go Ask Alex, Meadow Saffron, War Tigress, Happiness Is, Lady's Laughter; and winners Sweetest Song, Awesome Grannie, and Winter's Circle.

$300,000 Locust Grove Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 4:54 p.m.), fillies and mares 3 & up, one mile (turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Winter's Circle (KY), O Rossi, 106, R J Bugge
2. Awesome Grannie (KY), F Lenclud, 114, M Nihei
3. Sweetest Song (KY), C H Borel, 113, C A Nafzger
4. Acoma (KY), R Albarado, 121, D M Carroll
5. Meadow Saffron (KY), V Lebron, 116, F J Seitz
6. Danzon (KY), A O Solis, 116, J E Baker
7. Keertana (KY), M Mena, 120, T F Proctor
8. War Tigress (KY), C J Lanerie, 113, T F Proctor
9. Happiness Is (FL), G Kuntzweiler, 114, T F Proctor
10. Lady's Laughter (KY), S Bridgmohan, 114, C Lopresti
11. C. S. Silk (KY), F C Torres, 115, D L Romans
12. Go Ask Alex (KY), J K Court, 109, J Glenney