Lewis Lakin’s Pure Clan, a model of consistency on both turf and dirt throughout her career, headlines a stellar cast entered for Saturday’s 33rd running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) to be run at 1 1/16th miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs.
The Early Times Mint Julep, which goes as the 10th race on the 11-race card that opens with a 12:45 p.m. (EDT) post time, has attracted four graded stakes winners to its field of seven fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
The Bob Holthus-trained Pure Clan, the only Grade I stakes winner in the field, looms as the marquee attraction as she makes her 2009 debut in the Early Times Mint Julep.
Pure Clan placed ninth behind eventual filly and mare turf champion Forever Together in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (Grade I) at Santa Anita in her most recent start on Oct. 24. But the versatile 4-year-old daughter of Pure Prize has always run well at Churchill Downs, where she took the Pocahontas (Grade III) and Golden Rod (Grade II) on dirt as a 2-year-old in 2007, and returned last year to run third to eventual 3-year-old filly champion Proud Spell in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) and later added a win in the Grade III Regret on turf to her local resume. She followed her Regret victory with a trip to Southern California, where she scored a dramatic win in the American Oaks (GI) at Hollywood Park, an effort that serves as her career highlight to this point.
Pure Clan is the only millionaire in the field as she has earned $1,052,416 while compiling a career record of 6-2-2 in 11 races. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Saturday and make up most of the 122-pound impost for Pure Clan, who will spot from 2-9 pounds to her rivals. Pure Clan will break from post position one.
Other turf graded-stakes winners at Churchill Downs in the Early Times Mint Julep are Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma, Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena and Glen Hill Farm’s Closeout.
Trained by David Carroll, Acoma returns to the sod for the first time since winning the Grade II Mrs. Revere here last fall. The regally bred daughter of Empire Maker will carry 120 pounds and be ridden by Corey Lanerie. Acoma, who breaks from post three, will be running for the first time since a disappointing third-place finish as the favorite behind Seventh Street in the $500,000 Apple Blossom (GI) over traditional dirt at Oaklawn Park on April 4.
Tizaqueena, who scored her first graded-stakes victory in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day, is 3-for-3 on the grass for trainer Michael Stidham and boasts an overall record of five wins in six career starts. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount on Tizaqueena, who will carry 119 pounds and drew the outside post in the field of seven fillies and mares.
The remaining graded stakes winner in the field Saturday is Glen Hill Farm’s Closeout, who took the Grade III Pucker Up on the Arlington Park grass last September. The Early Times Mint Julep will serve as the 2009 debut for Closeout, who concluded her 2008 season with a fourth-place finish to Alwajeeha in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (Grade I) at Keeneland in October.
The homebred daughter of Repriced has a win and a runner-up finish in two starts over the Matt Winn Turf Course for trainer Tom Proctor. Veteran Larry Melancon will be in the saddle aboard Closeout, who was assigned 116 pounds.
Pure Clan will be joined in the Early Times Mint Julep starting gate by stablemate Day of Victory, a 4-year-old daughter of Victory Gallop who is also owned by Lakin and trained by Holthus. She is coming off an allowance win on the dirt at Oaklawn Park, her fourth win in 17 races, and will be ridden Saturday by Larry Sterling Jr.
The field for the Early Times Mint Julep, from the hedge out, is as follows: Pure Clan (Bridgmohan, 122 pounds), In My Glory (Jesus Castanon, 113), Acoma (Lanerie, 120), Sugar Baby Love (GER) (Jon Court, 114), Closeout (Melancon, 116), Day of Victory (Sterling, 114) and Tizaqueena (Hernandez, 119).