Helen Alexander and Helen Groves' Acoma will attempt to protect a perfect record in five races at Churchill Downs and join Megans Bluff (2001-02) as the only repeat winner of the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) when she faces eight rivals Saturday in the 34th running of the
1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep will go as the 10th race with an approximate post time of 5:29 p.m. (all times EDT) on Saturday's 11-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m. Following the conclusion of the live program, fans are welcome to stay to watch the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes (GI) that is scheduled for 6:32 p.m.
Acoma, who is three-for-three on the Matt Winn Turf Course, will be making her first start since winning the Cardinal Handicap (GIII) here last November. Trained by David Carroll, Acoma tuned up for her 2010 debut with a :48.80 half-mile work on Monday, May 31.
"She is doing very well and we are eager to get her started back," Carroll said.
Corey Lanerie, who rode Acoma to her 2009 Early Times Mint Julep triumph, has the call Saturday. Acoma, who will carry high weight of 122 pounds and concede from 2-15 pounds to her rivals, will break from post position six.
Sharing second highweight of 120 pounds are Barbara Hunter's Keertana and Nelson McMakin's Hot Cha Cha.
Trained by Tom Proctor, Keertana has compiled a turf record of 5-3-3 in 11 races, with three of those victories coming over the Matt Winn Turf Course. Keertana won the Regret (GIII) here last summer and finished second in the Mrs. Revere (GII) here last fall, finishing in front of Hot Cha Cha on both occasions.
Trained by Phil Sims, Hot Cha Cha was third in the Regret and fourth as the favorite in the 14-horse Mrs. Revere. Last fall at Keeneland, Hot Cha Cha won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (GI).
Jon Court will ride Keertana, who will break from post position seven and James Graham comes to town from Chicago to ride Hot Cha Cha, who will exit post position five.
Two other graded stakes winners are in the field: Derby Daze Farm, Mark Hoffman and Earl Trostrud's Hooh Why, who took the Central Bank Ashland (GI) in 2009 at Keeneland, and Joseph Allen's Danzon, who won the Kentucky Cup Distaff (GIII) at Turfway Park in 2007.
The field for the Early Times Mint Julep, from the hedge out, is as follows: Hooh Why (E.T. Baird, 116 pounds), Grande Annee (Shaun Bridgmohan, 113), Danzon (Leandro Goncalves, 115), My Baby Baby (Francisco Torres, 116), Hot Cha Cha (Graham, 120), Acoma (Lanerie, 122), Keertana (Court, 120), Winter's Circle (Rusty Shaw, 107) and Absolutely Cindy (Orlando Mojica, 113).