FREE FIGHTER HEADS HOME AFTER LOUISVILLE HANDICAP VICTORY – Louisville Handicap (GIII) winner Free Fighter headed back to his home base at Arlington Park Sunday morning after his upset two-length triumph over Bearpath in the 1 ½-mile marathon.

“He’s good this morning and we are going home,” said Drew Coontz, assistant to trainer Chris Block. “I am not sure what Chris has planned for him next.”

For Coontz, who has brought other Block runners to Churchill Downs the past couple of years, it was his first time to take the winner’s trophy back home.

“This was the first time I got to travel with this horse,” Coontz said. “I was at Tampa this winter with five horses and Free Fighter was at the Fair Grounds with Richie Scherer.”

Another new component of Free Fighter’s trip to Louisville was jockey Francisco Torres who rode the 5-year-old for the first time.

“Francisco got him to settle off the pace and I thought they were a good fit yesterday,” Coontz said. “I thought the horse was very collected in the paddock and he had his mind on business and it paid off.”

Trainer Ian Wilkes also had no immediate plans for Bearpath, who came out of the race in good order. Wilkes did rule out the closing-day one-mile Firecracker (GII), the only remaining graded turf stake for older horses for the meet that ends July 4.

ACOMA TARGETS EARLY TIMES MINT JULEP FOR 2010 DEBUT – There may not be a thoroughbred racehorse who loves Churchill Downs more than Acoma.

Helen C. Alexander and Helen K. Groves’ 5-year-old regally bred daughter of Empire Maker out of the Danzig mare Aurora never has lost beneath the Twin Spires, winning twice on the dirt and three times on grass.

So, it is fitting that trainer David Carroll plans to launch Acoma’s 2010 campaign than at Churchill Downs. Based on her perfect record under the Twin Spires, it is hard to imagine a better place to get Carroll’s stable star rolling.

“We are looking forward to getting her started back,” Carroll said. “The Beverly D. is our big goal for the summer.”

The $750,000 Beverly D. (GI) at Arlington Park will be run Aug. 21, and the road there for Acoma begins in the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) on June 5 at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Acoma won the race last year.

Acoma closed out 2009 with a win in the Cardinal Handicap (GIII), her fourth Churchill Downs stakes triumph. After that November victory, she received a long break.

“She did not go to Payson Park (in Florida) until mid January and we didn’t get her back in the barn until the first of April,” Carroll said of Acoma, who has strung together a consistent work pattern since April 12. “She is a bigger, heavier filly this year and is doing fantastic.”

Acoma has compiled a career record of 14-8-1-2 with earnings of $665,999. She has won six graded stakes; four on turf and two on dirt.

OXBOW RACING’S FLAT OUT BACK IN TRAINING – Oxbow Racing’s Flat Out, who briefly jumped onto the 2009 Kentucky Derby trail with a victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, is back in training after being sidelined by injury.

“He’s galloping on the farm in Paris and hopefully he will be here by the end of the meet,” trainer Scooter Dickey said. “We hope to have a fall campaign with him.”

Flat Out came to Churchill Downs last spring after a sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GII) but still with designs on running in the Kentucky Derby. However, less than two weeks before the Run for the Roses, it was discovered Flat Out had a stress fracture in his shoulder.

“That has healed, but then he had a problem with quarter cracks,” Dickey said. “The foot separated from the wall this spring and they have just let the foot grow back. He looks good at the farm.”

BARN TALK – Lady Luck had not been on the side of trainer Bill Connelly the past two Spring Meets here. After Berlioz won Saturday’s fifth race for his second victory of the meet, it appears Lady Luck has changed barns. “You just can’t figure it out. It can drive you crazy sometimes,” said Connelly, who has five winners from 10 starters with an additional second and third. Last spring, Connelly had only one winner from 24 starters and in 2008 notched three winners from 40 starters. “Check the seconds in 2008,” Connelly said with a wry grin. “I think I had 13 that meet.” Sure enough, 13 seconds and six thirds to give Connelly a better than 50 percent in-the-money mark. “You’ve just got to go on.” …

Silverfoot may have not have achieved a fourth Louisville Handicap victory on Saturday in finishing eighth, but his half-sister did find the winner’s circle. Chrysalis Stables’ Silver La Belle, a 3-year-old daughter of Langfuhr, broke her maiden in her fourth start for trainer Dallas Stewart. Silverfoot, now 10 and winner of the Louisville Handicap in 2004, 2005 and 2006, is a son of With Approval.

WORK TAB – Two runners from the Kentucky Derby were on the Sunday work tab, topped by ninth-place finisher Mission Impazible who breezed a half-mile in :47.80. That move by the Todd Pletcher-trained winner of the Louisiana Derby (GII) was the fourth fastest of 59 at the distance. Backtalk, 20th in the Derby, worked the same distance for trainer Tom Amoss in :50:60, 42nd fastest of the morning over a fast track. Other works of note included the return to the tab of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf winner Tapitsfly who worked three furlongs in :38.80. Other half-mile works included Lexington (GII) winner Exhi (:49.40), fifth-place Kentucky Oaks (GI) finisher Ailalea (:49.40) and Kentucky Juvenile (GIII) winner Lou Brissie (:50). Five-furlong workers included 2009 Derby Trial winner Hull (1:01.80) and multi graded-stakes winning turf standout Chamberlain Bridge (1:02.40). At the Trackside Training Center, 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Furthest Land worked five furlongs in :59.20, the fastest of 11 at the distance. Also working five-eighths at Trackside were 14th-place Kentucky Derby finisher Dean’s Kitten (1:00.40) and 12th-place Kentucky Oaks finisher Age of Humor (1:02.20). 

HORSEMEN’S GOLF SCRAMBLE RETURNS ON JUNE 8 – The second annual Horsemen’s Golf Scramble will be held Tuesday, June 8 at the Glenmary Country Club in Fern Creek, Ky., to help raise funds for the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs. The cost of the golf outing is $100 per player with four players to a team. Players will be treated to an 11 a.m. lunch. The 18-hole tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. There will be contests for the longest drive, closest to the pin, and a hole-in-one in which someone could win a 2010 Toyota Corolla from Oxmoor Toyota. Registration is due Friday and entry forms can be found at the Backside Learning Center or by visiting www.derbymusuem.org/backsidelc.

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