Helen Groves and Helen Alexander’s Acoma repelled a late bid from Pure Clan and held on for a neck victory in the $109,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) June 6 at Churchill Downs.
It was the third graded stakes win at Churchill for the versatile 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker and her fourth triumph in the last five starts overall. David Carroll trains the bay filly.
Acoma rated nicely under Corey Lanerie in mid-pack through the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile turf event while In My Glory took the field of six through splits of :24.51 and :49.12. Tizaqueena, who entered with a four-race win streak, took over around the far turn and was the one to catch at the quarter-pole.
But Acoma fought her way between horses when she straightened away and opened up a commanding lead in the stretch. She needed every bit of the advantage, as Pure Clan, last in the early going, came roaring on the outside under Shaun Bridgmohan. The late charge came up just short. Pure Clan, a grade I winner, was making her 2009 debut for Bob Holthus.
Acoma stopped the clock in 1:43.10 on a turf course labeled firm. Pure Clan, entering off a more than seven-month layoff, was 4 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Tizaqueena.
Acoma won the March 8 Azeri (gr. III) in her season debut on the dirt at Oaklawn Park, but was soundly beaten when finishing third as the 2-5 favorite in the Apple Blossom (gr. I) April 4 over the same strip. Carroll moved her back to the grass for the first time this year. Last year, Acoma won the Valley View (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland and Mrs. Revere (gr. IIT) at Churchill, both on the grass. She has five graded stakes wins to her credit overall.
“She’s just a beautiful filly," Carroll said. "She ran a great race and Corey gave her a great ride. He saved all the ground and the (hole) opened up turning for home. She kicked hard and Pure Clan made a great run at her and she’s a grade I winner. Corey felt our filly got to gawking a little bit down the stretch, but once Pure Clan came to her, she kicked on again. She loves the competition but Pure Clan ran a great race off a long layoff."
Carroll said Acoma may run in the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington Park later this summer.
Bred in Kentucky, Acoma is out of the Danzig mare Aurora. She is now 7-1-2 from 11 starts with earnings of $597,165.
The winner paid $5, $2.80 and $2.40 as the favorite. The exacta (3-1) returned $15.40 and the trifecta (3-1-7) was $35.80.