Exactly one week after a blockbuster Derby Day highlighted by Nyquist and Tepin, Churchill Downs will get to see another marquee name in action – Acapulco, who raises the $65,000 Unbridled Sidney S. to a rather higher profile. The Wesley Ward-trained Amazon is using the five-furlong turf dash as a warm-up for her return visit to Royal Ascot next month.
Owned by the Coolmore principals of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, the Scat Daddy filly burst onto the international scene with a command performance in last summer’s Queen Mary (G2) at the Royal meeting. Acapulco was rebounding from a third as the 3-5 favorite on her debut over the Churchill dirt last May. The Unbridled Sidney therefore represents a similar time frame ahead of Royal Ascot.
Acapulco raced only once more as a juvenile, finishing a terrific second versus older horses in the August 21 Nunthorpe (G1) at York. Rain-softened ground blunted her speed in the closing stages, while the high-class Mecca’s Angel, at her best with give in the ground, took advantage.
Training sharply on Turfway Park’s Polytrack over the winter, Acapulco took in an entry-level allowance February 19 to assist with her fitness. She had to work a little in the stretch, but that was just what she needed to derive maximum benefit from the nighttime caper. It was also the first time she’d tried six furlongs.
Acapulco has been limbering up at Keeneland in the interim, and her morning-line price of 5-2 appears generous. The class of the field, who has drawn the rail with Robby Albarado, will surely get bet down further. As if her form isn’t enough to recommend her, she also gets a five-pound weight break from her older rivals.
Ward gave the Churchill notes team a confident bulletin.
“This is exactly what you would expect from a $750,000 purchase [at OBS March],” Ward said. “She’s always been an immensely talented filly and has had no physical issues whatsoever.
“She’s a big and imposing filly and that being said, after she ran last year against older horses in England, I just wanted to give her time to develop and mature. Mr. Tabor and I sat down and mapped out a plan after her race at York and we decided that the race we would be going to target were those two.”
Ward was alluding to her two engagements at Royal Ascot: the five-furlong King’s Stand (G1) versus older horses on opening day, June 14, or the June 17 Commonwealth Cup (G1), where she would meet fellow sophomores, but over a sixth furlong.
“We would like to culminate with the Breeders’ Cup,” Ward said of the November 5 Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita.
“She’s an immensely talented turf sprinter. With horses as fast as her you want to get her as sound as possible.
“She would likely have three more starts before the Breeders’ Cup. The July Cup (G1) at Newmarket (July 9) is a race we would like to target. Unfortunately in the U.S. there aren’t very many big turf sprint races. Everything here is centered around the dirt and it would be nice to see that change some in the next few years.”
Ward could have the exacta in the Unbridled Sidney, with Tesalina an able understudy. The Chilean import missed by a neck to Jewel of the Cat in the December 27 Windley Key at Gulfstream and checked in third in the March 18 Arboretum down the hill at Santa Anita. Her most recent effort, a ninth in the Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland, is a toss-out, as Ward explains.
“She’s coming in very, very well,” Ward said. “She was hit on the starting gate in her last race. After the race she was bleeding out of the nose and we scoped her and it was nothing internal in her lungs; it was in her sinus membranes. I don’t know exactly where it occurred, but it had an effect on the outcome.”
Other contenders include Lindisfarne, fourth in the Giant’s Causeway for Steve Asmussen; Late Spring, who exits a Keeneland allowance score; and Calypso Run, who hit the gate en route to her subpar fifth in the off-the-turf Big Easy at (where else?) Fair Grounds. Fonepferesh cuts back in trip off a sixth in the Jersey Lilly at Sam Houston, and lures Gary Stevens; Amarachi needs to step up on known form; and Pimlico shipper Two Wonders takes a substantial class hike. That prompts the question of why she’s just not staying home for the $100,000 The Very One on Preakness Day instead of shipping to face Acapulco for less. After all, Two Wonders is nominated to The Very One – then again, so is a certain fire-breather named Lady Shipman. Food for thought, at any rate.
Acapulco workout photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography.