Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma held off a furious late charge from Pure Clan to win the 33rd
running of the $109,000 Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) on Saturday at Churchill Downs by a diminishing neck.
Acoma, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker out of the Danzig mare Aurora, is trained by David Carroll and was ridden by Corey Lanerie.
Longshot In My Glory, ridden by Jesus Castanon, led the field through fractions of :24.51, :49.12 on the firm Matt Winn Turf Course with Tizaqueena in closest pursuit. Lanerie held a ground-saving position with Acoma along the hedge in fourth place in the run down the backside.
Leaving the backstretch, Tizaqueena, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., moved past In My Glory and had a slim lead at the top of the stretch. Acoma moved between In My Glory and Tizaqueena and quickly collared the leader and opened a daylight advantage at the eighth pole before Pure Clan began her rally from last in the field of six under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Acoma, now 3-for-3 on the turf and 6-for-6 in the state of Kentucky, covered the 1 1/16th miles in 1:43.10.
Acoma returned $5, $2.80 and $2.40. Pure Clan returned $3.40 and $2.40 with Tizaqueena finishing 4 ¾ lengths back in third and paying $2.10 to show. Completing the order of finish were Day of Victory, Closeout and In My Glory.
The victory was worth $66,905 and increased Acoma’s earnings to $597,165 with seven victories in 11 races.
Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race card. First post time is 12:45 p.m. EDT.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE EARLY TIMES MINT JULEP
DAVID CARROLL, trainer of ACOMA (winner)
“She’s just a beautiful filly. She ran a great race and Corey (Lanerie) 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.
“You know, we’re just so happy for Helen (Alexander) and her mother (Helen Groves). She’s just a lovely filly with a great pedigree. We’re very happy.”
Q: Is the Grade I Beverly D. a major goal?
“That would be one of her goals. But obviously we want to see how she comes out of this. She won the Mrs. Revere and had four months off. She came back and ran a huge race in the Azeri and then she kind of regressed in the Apple Blossom. We probably wouldn’t have beaten the winner on the day, but we didn’t run our race so we just freshened her up again.
“You know, she’s six-for-six in the state of Kentucky and hopefully they’ll move the Beverly D. down here! We’d like that!”
COREY LANERIE, jockey of ACOMA (winner)
“My filly broke well. The pace wasn’t real fast and she was in the perfect position the whole way. I was really just up there trying to be a good passenger. When we turned for home, I was looking for Tizaqueena. I figured she would be running and I could follow and hoped that something would open. It worked out perfectly. I followed her and she took a step out and the horse on the rail stopped. I pointed her to the hole and she took me right in there.”
Q: When Pure Clan started to come to you….
“I was watching her coming and I saw her coming and I actually didn’t think she was coming that fast. My horse was kind of loping a little bit and about four jumps before the wire I started to get busy again because (Pure Clan) was coming fast. But I knew I had horse. I was just keeping an eye on her to make sure she didn’t catch me.”
ROBERT HOLTHUS, trainer of PURE CLAN (runner-up)
“She ran a good race. She’d been off for seven months. She had to come around and the other horse got through on the rail.”
Q: Do have a plan for her for the summer?
“We’re probably going to the Modesty at Arlington in about a month. We’ll see how she comes back from this race and go from there.”
Q: It’s good to have her back in your barn for another year…
“It’s good to have her back running.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey on PURE CLAN (runner-up)
“She ran hard. She broke kind of OK for me, and I didn’t want to gear her up and get her where she was pulling on me, so I kind of took what she gave me. Unfortunately, I was at the back of the pack and I had to wait for somebody to move or else I’d have to go way too wide. But once she got runnin’, she came runnin’ down the lane. She’s a very nice filly – and extremely nice filly.”
MIKE STIDHAM, trainer of TIZAQUEENA (third)
“She looked like she was in a good spot. Brian (Hernandez Jr.) said she handled the grass all right. We’ve got no real excuse right now.”
Q: Any thoughts about down the road and her next start?
“The Modesty at Arlington is a possibility. We’ll just kind of look around and see.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on TIZAQUEENA (third)
“We got out there and had everything go our way down the backside, and I thought turning for home we’d go on. We kicked and went on, but those two fillies that beat us, they were coming off layoffs – but they’re nice horses. That’s what it came down to. I was hoping with them off the layoff and our filly doing so good at the time, that we’d get the jump of ‘em and be able to beat ‘em today. But it didn’t work out that way.”
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