06/02/2010 11:00PM

Acoma using Mint Julep as springboard


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - David Carroll has an appreciation for history, particularly that of the Belmont Stakes. Carroll was the exercise rider for 1989 Belmont winner Easy Goer; his brother Raymond was the traveling assistant for the 1990 winner, Go and Go; and he was the trainer of 2008 runner-up Denis of Cork.

"I've always loved the Belmont," Carroll said.

Before he turns to watch the 142nd Belmont on television Saturday, Carroll will try to make a little more history of his own at Churchill Downs. That's where the Irish-born trainer will saddle Acoma as the 122-pound highweight for the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap and where he hopes the mare will be good enough to run her career mark under the twin spires to a remarkable 6 for 6.

"I honestly don't think I have her cranked up for the race of her life," Carroll conceded. "As much as we'd love to win, this race is just the first step toward what we hope is another great year for the mare."

At Churchill, Acoma (pronounced AK-uh-muh) has won twice on the main track and three times on the turf, including the 2009 Mint Julep. This 34th running of the $100,000 Mint Julep, a 1 1/16-mile turf race, marks her first start since she won the Cardinal Handicap on the turf here in late November.

"It's her first race in over six months, and it's a tough group she's in with," Carroll said.

Corey Lanerie will be aboard Acoma when the 5-year-old mare breaks from post 6.

Keertana, a Tom Proctor-trained mare in midseason form, and Hot Cha Cha, a Grade 1 winner last fall, are the top threats to Acoma's perfect local mark being ruined. Both 4-year-old fillies carry 120 pounds.

Keertana has had the benefit of two starts, both wins, this year, while Hot Cha Cha also has recency on her side, having been third in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley and second in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile this spring.

Six other fillies and mares are entered in the Mint Julep, which goes as the 10th of 11 races Saturday.

First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with the Mint Julep at 5:29 p.m. The Belmont simulcast is at 6:32.