07/12/2009 11:00PM

Acoma's status for Del Cap hinges on Rachel

Email

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - So much for Julien Leparoux's Beverly D. bafflement.

Leparoux rode Acoma to victory in the Mint Julep Handicap on June 6 at Churchill Downs, winning by a neck over Pure Clan. Leparoux is more or less Pure Clan's regular rider, and was back aboard that filly Saturday in the Modesty Handicap, which Pure Clan won in an accelerated gallop. The victory punched Pure Clan's ticket for the Aug. 8 Beverly D. Handicap, which also had been on the radar as a possible next stop for Acoma. But Acoma, trainer David Carroll said Monday, was headed to Delaware Park for the $1 million Delaware Handicap this Sunday, meaning Leparoux probably can ride both Acoma and Pure Clan without any conflict at all.

The "probably" has everything to do with a third horse - Rachel Alexandra. Acoma had a solid work Monday morning at Churchill Downs, going five furlongs in 1:00.40 under Corey Lanerie, and was to ship by van to Delaware later on Monday, Carroll said. But Acoma will come back home without racing should Rachel Alexandra wind up being entered in the Delaware Handicap on Wednesday.

"If Rachel goes, we're not going to run," Carroll said.

Acoma has run well on both turf and dirt, and would be among the favorites if she starts in the Del Cap this weekend. If not, the Beverly D. still is out there as a back-up plan, and as much as Carroll respects Pure Clan, he said he would not be afraid to take her on again.

Pure Clan, however, was mightily impressive winning the Modesty over solid fillies Tizaqueena and Dynaforce by 2 1/2 lengths. She shipped back to trainer Bob Holthus's base at Churchill Downs on Sunday, and "came back in good shape," Holthus said.

"She ate all her dinner last night, and was bright this morning," Holthus said Monday morning.

Holthus said Pure Clan would probably follow the same schedule next month she had leading to the Modesty, shipping to Arlington the Thursday before the Beverly D., and galloping over the track here Friday.

"I was glad she didn't have to run real hard," Holthus said of the Modesty performance. "She had to run to win, but it didn't seem like a gut-wrenching race."

Just as Well unlikely late bloomer

In early June 2008, Jonathan Sheppard sheepishly phoned his longtime owner George Strawbridge.

In this case, a horse named Just as Well had won for the second straight time after being laid off for almost two years. Normally, a telephone call to report on a winning effort is a good thing.

But between races, Strawbridge, looking to decrease his equine holdings, had sold his homebred Just as Well to Sheppard.

There was no doubt Just as Well was a major project. Serious soundness issues had taken him out of training, and who knew when - or if - Just as Well would make it back.

But now Just as Well had won his turf debut in an entry-level allowance race, breaking from post 12 at Delaware Park and coming home more than two lengths to the good.

"I was little embarrassed to call him and have to say, 'He won again,' " Sheppard recounted early Saturday evening at Arlington Park. "But he said, 'Don't be embarrassed. I'm happy for you.' "

Now, Just as Well, the one-time castoff, has won a graded stakes, and is probably headed for a try next month in the Arlington Million. He circled the field late Saturday under E.T. Baird, and won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap by one length, Just as Well's first stakes victory. Just as Well was headed back to Presque Isle Downs, where he trained in the days leading to the Arlington Handicap, and is likely to ship back here for the Aug. 8 Million, Sheppard said.

An A.P. Indy horse, Just as Well showed speed and talent running short on dirt at the start of his career back in early 2006. But after four starts the colt went bad, and no one could say exactly what ailed him.

"He had a lot of soundness issues," said Sheppard. "I was never convinced we did diagnose his ailments."

Just as Well made seven starts in 2008, and raced six times between January and May 16, when he finished second in the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico. Back at the farm not long after, Sheppard decided to back off on Just as Well.

"I could see some red flags going up," he said.

This time, it was a matter of weeks, not years, before Just as Well got right again. Two turf works at the farm, a race-week blowout at Presque Isle, and Just as Well was ready to go. Better than ever, in fact, at age 6.

Revised time issued for Sprint

There were issues with the electronic timing system on Saturday at Arlington, perhaps resulting from the fact that Arlington used a temporary rail to create an inner and outer turf course. Arlington has employed the configuration before, and done so without timing issues, but for whatever reason there were no fractional time available for Saturday's American Derby, and the final time posted on the tote board for the Arlington Sprint, a course-record 1:00.80, was quickly amended to 1:02.50 after being hand-timed by the Equibase chart crew.