Acapulco Wins at Churchill, Bound for Royal Ascot

Acapulco Wins at Churchill, Bound for Royal Ascot

Coady Photography

Acapulco winning the Unbridled Sidney Stakes at Churchill Downs - Coady Photography
Acapulco winning the Unbridled Sidney Stakes at Churchill Downs – Coady Photography

The remarkable sprinter Acapulco, who was a dominant winner of the Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot last summer, is bound for Royal Ascot once again after winning the Unbridled Sidney Stakes on May 14th at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Wesley Ward, the daughter of Scat Daddy nearly made history as a two-year-old last year when she faced a top-notch field of older horses in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Eng-I) at York, in which she led into the final furlong before finishing second in a tremendous performance. Given time off after that race, she returned on February 29th to win an allowance race on the Polytrack at Turfway Park (click here for details), then returned to turf for the five-furlong Unbridled Sidney Stakes. Back on her preferred surface, Acapulco dueled for the lead through an opening quarter-mile in :22.55 seconds, then took a clear advantage in the homestretch to cruise home a winner by 3 1/2 lengths in the time of :57.47 seconds. Robby Albarado, who rode Acapulco in her debut at Churchill last year, was in the saddle.

“She ran great,” trainer Wesley Ward was quoted as saying in the post-race quotes compiled by Churchill Downs. “You couldn’t ask for anything better, especially with a little give in the ground today. She came back a little tired and that’s good. I was really concerned (about the Saturday morning rain). The other horse (Tesalina) would have stayed in if it was on the dirt, but I certainly didn’t want it to come off … I wouldn’t have known what to do.

“(Her jockey at Royal Ascot) will be either Ryan Moore or maybe Robby (Albarado) because he knows her so well; he does a lot of the work with her. We’ll see. Of course it will be Ryan’s call first because he’s contracted to ride (for Coolmore). But if they have another stallion in the race, he may be committed to (trainer) Aidan (O’Brien). It’s not my call but (Robby Albarado) is who I’d ask to use (if Ryan Moore) is unavailable. Robby has done a lot of work with her and rides her pretty good.”

Albarado has been impressed with Acapulco’s speed and talent. “I just hope Ryan Moore rides another horse and then I’ll get to go (to Royal Ascot). I’ve worked her since she was a 2-year-old and before she’s ever run. Wesley (Ward) told me, ‘This might be the fastest 2- year-old you’ve ever been on.’ For Wesley to say that … you know, he’s had some pretty fast 2-year-olds. Boy, was he ever right. She’s special.”

Regarding Acapulco’s performance on Saturday, Albarado added “Wesley told me to do whatever I wanted. When I got to the turn, I decided to nudge her just a bit and she just jumped in there.”

Acapulco’s next start is expected to come in either the June 14th King’s Stand Stakes (Eng-I) or the June 17th Commonwealth Cup (Eng-I) during the Royal Ascot meeting in England. Ward is no stranger to success at Royal Ascot; in addition to his win with Acapulco last year, he sent out Undrafted to win the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I) during the 2015 meeting.

On Sunday morning, Ward told Churchill Downs that Acapulco had emerged from the Unbridled Sidney in great shape and was more likely to run in the Commonwealth than the King’s Stand.

“I’m standing in front of her right now and she looks good to me,” Ward was quoted as saying in a press release. “She did beautiful and she kind of took the worst of it being on the inside, but the most important thing is that we came out with a win so confidence-wise we can really push forward on to Royal Ascot. She galloped out strong and came out in good order. She came back tired, which is a good thing. It was her first race since February, but she came out great and gave it 100 percent.

“I would certainly lean toward the Commonwealth,” Ward added. “It’s straight 3-year-olds and would be the easiest of the two you would think, but the decision lies with Coolmore and whatever decision they want to make. We’re excited about her; she’s a really great filly.”

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin’s quest to become North America’s richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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