(May 31, 2008) – Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ homebred Acoma rallied to beat 2-1 favorite Keep the Peace by a half-length to register her first stakes win in Saturday’s 34th running of the Grade III, $109,000 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Acoma, trained by David Carroll, ran one mile over a “fast” main track in 1:34.56 – the fastest of three editions of the Dogwood at the distance.
Acoma, who made her stakes debut, settled off the early pace of :23.11, :46.22 and 1:10.11 set by Saratoga track record holder Secret Gypsy. Keep the Peace, who was stalking from second, drew even with the leader at the top of the stretch and assumed the top position with just a sixteenth of a mile remaining. Acoma, meanwhile, split horses on the turn and rallied wide from fifth to deny Keep the Peace victory in the final strides.
Robby Albarado, who notched his meet-best fourth stakes win, took over the riding duties on Acoma after regular rider Julien Leparoux opted to ride runner-up Keep the Peace.
“Right outside the eighth pole I thought I had some good momentum on ‘em,” said Albarado, who will team with Carroll again next week aboard Denis of Cork in the Belmont Stakes. “I was closing ground fast. With the distance from that point to the wire, I thought I had a shot to get to ‘em. When she ran by (Keep the Peace), she just kept extending herself. It was a great race from her.”
Acoma, a Kentucky-bred daughter of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker out of the Danzig mare Aurora, collected her third straight victory in four career starts. She broke her maiden over Polytrack at Keeneland in mid-April and won a first-level allowance over a “sloppy” surface at Churchill Downs on May 11.
Acoma, who earned $66,904 to nearly double her bankroll to $134,564, paid $17.80, $6.40 and $4. Keep the Peace, a runner-up in three graded stakes this year, returned $3.80 and $3. Secret Gypsy finished another 3 ¾ lengths behind in third and paid $4.40.
Alina, Tiz to Dream and Temper Temper completed the order of finish. Pious Ashley was scratched by trainer Dale Romans.
Dogwood Stakes Jockey & Trainer Quotes
DAVID CARROLL, trainer of ACOMA
“She’s always been a beautiful filly. The best thing that happened to her last year is that we had to give her time. Hopefully she just keeps on improving.”
Q: The race didn’t set up for her, but she got it done…
“Actually the last race for her , when she caught a sloppy track and raced in traffic, she never really actually settled ‘til the three-eighths pole – that’s as early as he could get her back and give her a bit of a breather, because she raced in traffic the whole way. But she got it done, she came back and she trained beautifully – she’s always trained beautifully.”
“I she couldn’t run a step, you’d say she’s beautiful. But the fact that she can run makes her more beautiful.”
Q: Where do you go with her now that she has a graded stakes win under her belt?
“This is a big step. She’s a graded stakes winner now, and for a filly with her pedigree that’s a first step. But this was a good step for her. I won’t say today was a surprise, but we went into the race hoping she’d run well. If you hit the board, it would be great, and the fact that she won it was just icing on the cake. But for me, personally, watching her from the day we got her until now, she’s taught me an awful lot. Winning for Helen (Alexander) is always special.”
Q: Why didn’t she race at two?
“She had some gate issues and was immature. She came up with a little injury in the fall and we just decided to give her some time off. When she came back to me she looked fantastic. She had really filled out. She came back to me in great shape and we got her ready to run at the end of Fair Grounds, and she’s just gone from strength to strength.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey on ACOMA
Q: Is this the start of a big week for you and trainer David Carroll?
“I hope so. We moved in with this one very quietly. We’re going to move in next week very quietly, and hopefully cause a big scene. That’s what we’re hoping to do.”
Q: There were lot of reasons that she would not win that race…
“That’s what David said in the paddock. We were cutting back on the distance for her and she hadn’t been breaking that well. But she gave herself a chance leaving there. She broke well and put herself in the race behind some very nice fillies, I thought. The only thing was if Eddie’s horse (Keep the Peace) would last that mile. That was a major concern. She’d been getting nailed going seven eighths of a mile, and we thought that maybe if she slows down some that we could maybe get there. She ran well.”
Q: When did you feel like you had it?
“Right outside the eighth pole I thought I had some good momentum on ‘em. I was closing ground fast. With the distance from that point to the wire, I thought I had a shot to get to ‘em. When she ran by her (Keep the Peace), she just kept extending herself. It was a great race from her.”
EDDIE KENNEALLY, trainer of KEEP THE PEACE
“She’s been unlucky not to have won a graded stake – she’s been second now in three of them. But she shows up every time, she’s very honest.”
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