03/17/2009 11:00PM

Acoma in no rush for Apple Blossom


Champion mare Zenyatta isn't expected to make her 2009 debut until May, at the earliest, so rule her out of defending her 2008 win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. The Apple Blossom on April 4 is the goal for champion filly Proud Spell, but she was defeated by Louisiana-bred Superior Storm in an Oaklawn allowance race last week. In fact, it is beginning to feel like Acoma could wind up being the favorite for the prestigious Apple Blossom on the strength of her sharp comeback win in the Azeri Stakes on March 8 at Oaklawn.

Fair Grounds-based Acoma hasn't posted a timed workout since her five-length win, but trainer David Carroll said Acoma is on course for a return trip to Oaklawn in search of a Grade 1 victory.

"She came out of the race very well," the Irish-bred Carroll said on St. Patrick's Day. "She'll have two maintenance works at Fair Grounds, and we'll take her back up there around the first of April. She'll work next Sunday or Monday. Normally, I don't work horses till two weeks after they run, and I want to give her a good time to recover. All the major work is done - keeping her happy is the thing."

Carroll had said before the Azeri that Acoma would need a start to get all the way back in racing shape - a scary proposition considering the strength of her victory. Acoma drew off in the stretch to easily beat a solid Grade 3 field, and speed-figure adherents will note she earned a career-top 100 Beyer in the first start of her 4-year-old season. And Acoma gives Carroll the luxury of picking and choosing from a wide array of races, since she has won well on Polytrack, turf, and dirt.

Carroll's talented 3-year-old filly sprinter Selva hasn't worked since she won her turf debut in the Feb. 20 Mardi Gras Stakes at Fair Grounds, but all is well with her, too, and Selva remains on course for a start in the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland, Carroll said.

Unbridled Express will run only on dirt

The name of the horse who worked a bullet half-mile in 47.40 seconds on Wednesday morning at Fair Grounds might ring a bell: Unbridled Express. But even close followers of the sport will be forgiven if they cannot place the horse. The 5-year-old Unbridled Express last raced in the Grade 1 Hopeful in September 2006, finishing third behind Circular Quay. The race before, he beat a little old colt named Street Sense in a Churchill Downs maiden sprint.

More than 2 1/2 years later, Unbridled Express is ready to start again. He was entered in the eighth race on Friday at Fair Grounds, but will start only if that entry-level allowance is rained off grass and onto dirt. If not, trainer Bernie Flint will take the horse back to Kentucky, perhaps even awaiting the Churchill Downs meet to bring Unbridled Express back on dirt.

"We've waited this long," Flint said. "If it takes another month, that's not the end of the world."

Unbridled Express suffered a hairline fracture at 2, an injury, Flint said, that should have cost him just three or four months. But that was before Unbridled Express ran through a fence in a farm accident, badly injuring his hock, and totally derailing his career.

"He had quite a bit of problems with infections and things like that," Flint said.

But Wednesday's breeze was Unbridled Express's seventh of the winter at Fair Grounds, and Flint said the horse "looks like he left the track six months ago."

"I've been in this business all my life, and seldom run across a horse like him," said Flint. "It's unbelievable his attitude and everything else didn't go down the drain after so much time."

Plans for Omniscient uncertain

The 3-year-old colt Omniscient looked like a stakes horse winning his second straight race in a Louisiana Derby Day undercard allowance. And having knocked out his entry-level allowance condition now, one would assume that Omniscient would be bound for some kind of stakes race. But when and where Omniscient, a son of Pulpit, will resurface is something of a mystery. Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable owns the colt, and Kevin McGee, Jackson's attorney and occasional spokesperson, said Tuesday that Stonestreet had no specific plans for Omniscient, and hadn't yet plotted a course with trainer Steve Asmussen.

Omniscient showed speed and finished second while sprinting in his career debut Jan. 1, but switched to rating tactics in his back-to-back two-turn wins at Fair Grounds. Saturday, he tracked a fast pace and drew clear late to win by 1 1/2 lengths, going one mile and 40 yards in a swift 1:40, though his winning Beyer Speed Figure was only 85.