05/31/2008 12:00AM

Indian Chant digs in for win in Aristides


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After contesting blazing early fractions, Indian Chant gamely held off a sustained run from Noonmark to post a head victory in the Grade 3 Aristides Stakes, the last of three stakes run Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Indian Chant, ridden by Jamie Theriot, battled with Esperamos through splits of 21.10 and 43.78 seconds, drawing clear at the quarter pole. Then Noonmark, who had the best stalking trip, moved to challenge from the outside, and approaching the sixteenth pole he appeared to have Indian Chant collared. But Indian Chant dug in to narrowly prevail.

"This horse really showed a lot of determination today, and that's a credit to him," said Tom Amoss, who trains Indian Chant for Maggi Moss. "This is a top sprinter. I don't know where we're going next, but we're going to shoot for the stars."

Indian Chant, the second choice in a field of six, earned $67,133 from a total purse of $117,779. He returned $6.40 after finishing six furlongs in a meet-best 1:08.40 over a fast track. Last July, Indian Chant set the Churchill record of 1:07.55 for the distance.

Elite Squadron, whose start and overall trip were less than ideal, finished 5 1/4 lengths back in third as the 2-1 favorite. He was followed by Kelly's Landing and Esperamos. Carnacks Choice was pulled up by Robby Albarado midway down the backstretch.

Indian Chant, a 5-year-old California-bred gelding claimed for $50,000 in November 2006, now has 9 wins and 9 seconds from 23 career starts.

Inca King rebounds in Opening Verse

If necessary, trainer Steve Asmussen was willing to miss the simulcast of the Ohio Derby when participating in the winner's circle ceremonies following an emphatic victory by Inca King in the $119,700 Opening Verse Handicap.

Inca King, sent straight to the lead by Shaun Bridgmohan, drew clear to win the Opening Verse by 2 1/4 lengths over Seaside Retreat. It was the first race in 11 weeks for Inca King.

A 4-year-old gelding owned by the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, Inca King returned $9.20 as a slight favorite after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.39 over a firm turf.

"I might have overraced him," Asmussen said. "We freshened him up, and he ran great today."

Corrupt rallied to be third, while Cloudy's Knight, a 2007 Sovereign Award winner, faded badly as the 7-2 second choice to finish seventh of 10 older runners in his seasonal debut.

By the way, after the last photograph was snapped, Asmussen ran off to a television monitor and was able to catch every step of the Ohio Derby, in which Z Fortune, the colt he trains for Zayat Stables, finished third as the favorite.

Acoma surges ahead in Dogwood

Acoma ($17.80) gave David Carroll a head start on what the veteran trainer hopes is a big week ahead when the filly surged past Keep the Peace for a half-length victory in the Grade 3, $109,000 Dogwood Stakes.

With Albarado riding, Acoma was fifth most of the way before splitting rivals near the quarter pole and angling out with her winning drive. Secret Gypsy, the leader to midstretch, faded to third, another 3 3/4 lengths back behind Keep the Peace, the 2-1 favorite. Then came Alina, Tiz to Dream, and Temper Temper.

Carroll will head to New York this week to run Denis of Cork as the likely third choice in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

Acoma, an Empire Maker filly bred and owned by Helen Alexander and Helen Groves, was the second longest shot in a field of six 3-year-old fillies. She finished the one-turn mile in 1:34.56.

Acoma was making her stakes debut after winning 2 of 3 starts to begin her career. She is a half-sister to the established sire Arch, being out of Aurora, a daughter of Althea.