Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena will try to bounce back off a third-place finish in the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT), a defeat that broke a string of four consecutive scores, as she headlines a field of eight fillies and mares in the $100,000 Locust Grove Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Churchill Downs turf July 5.
Tizaqueena is one of two graded stakes winners in the one-mile Locust Grove, the other being Glen Hill Farm’s Closeout, who captured the Pucker Up (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park last season. Post time is set for 5:29 p.m. EDT for Churchill Downs' closing-day feature.
Trained by Michael Stidham, Tizaqueena closed out her 3-year-old campaign with an allowance win at Fair Grounds in December, then won three straight to start 2009, including the Churchill Distaff Mile (gr. IIT) on Kentucky Derby day. The daughter of Tiznow—Issaqueena, by Mr. Prospector, won in front-running fashion in each of those efforts.
In the June 6 Mint Julep at Churchill, Tizaqueena was on the front end once again in the early part of the race but faltered in the stretch to finish five lengths back. It was her first time under Brian Hernandez Jr. Regular rider Jamie Theriot returns for the Locust Grove. They will break from post 4.
Closeout finished fifth in the Mint Julep in her 2009 debut for owner/trainer Tom Proctor. The 4-year-old Repriced filly won four times as a sophomore, including the Pucker Up where she came flying from off the pace to get up by a half-length under Theriot. She ended her season with a fourth-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland. Robby Albarado will ride for the first time.
James Spence’s Tensas Yucatan enters with a three-race win streak, including a 4 3/4-length score last out in the restricted Honeymoon Stakes at Louisiana Downs. The 5-year-old Louisiana-bred mare was well beaten in her only two starts at Churchill. She is trained by Morris Nicks.
Also worth mentioning is Hickory Tree Stable’s Leamington, who has hit the board in all three of her U.S. starts after beginning her racing career in Europe. The Graham Motion trainee won a nine-furlong allowance contest June 7 at Churchill in her last start. Calvin Borel has the call.