OCEANPORT, N.J. * The well-bred Acoma drops back from a Grade 1 stakes try to contest Saturday’s $150,000 Monmouth Oaks (G3) * Rough Road Ahead returns to sprinting on the dirt in the $70,000 Select Stakes Saturday.
Acoma has a lot going for her in Saturday’s $150,000 Monmouth Oaks (G3). First, the 3-year-old filly is one of the best bred horses in America. Second, she comes into the mile and a sixteenth Oaks off a try against Grade 1 rivals in the CCA Oaks at Belmont. And third, she arrived at Monmouth on Thursday back at the peak of her powers.
“In the Belmont race (on June 14), she was just coming into season,” Carroll said. “And she didn’t run her best race (she was fourth, beaten nearly 19 lengths). But really, most of it was due to the top two in that race.”
Music Note and Little Belle, both owned by the Godolphin Stable, are two of the best 3-year-old fillies in the country right now, with Music Note even being considered for a try against colts in the Travers Stakes.
But now it’s nearly eight weeks later and Acoma is back to being the filly who ran off three straight wins * including the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes * in Kentucky.
“She’s out of season now,” said Carroll, “and she’s been training well for this. And it’s a good thing. The Oaks is a really nice race, very competitive. And we had to ship here from Saratoga, so that could be a factor.”
Acoma is a bay daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, out of the Danzig mare Aurora, which makes her a member of a dazzling female family and gives her license to be any kind of runner, and to become an outstanding broodmare after her racing career ends.
She was bred by owners Helen Alexander and Helen Groves, who have kept the female line prospering for decades. Aurora, who has also produced stakes winners Festival of Light, Aztec Pearl, Alisios and a top-ranked sire in Arch, is out of the mighty stakes-winning mare Althea, who also produced stakes winners Alyssum, Destiny Dance and Yamanin Paradise, a Grade 1 winner in Japan. Althea, in turn, is out of Courtly Dee, who also produced such stakes winners as Native Courier, Twining and Ali Oop.
What it all means, of course, is that Acoma can be successful on any surface, at any distance.
That’s what the bottom line has given her. And what has Empire Maker on top contributed?
“She’s got quite an attitude,” Carroll said, “just like daddy. But of course the good ones usually have an attitude.”
Carroll, who went out on his own as a trainer in 1993, worked for McGaughey after coming to the U.S. from Ireland. He was at Monmouth for the first time in 1988, when Seeking the Gold ran second to Forty Niner in the Haskell, and returned in 1990 with Rhythm, who was third in the Haskell but went on to win the Travers.
SMOOTH SAILING ON DIRT IN SELECT FOR ROUGH ROAD AHEAD?
When last seen in action, Roseland Farm Stable’s Rough Road Ahead was finishing fifth in the June 22 Anderson Fowler Stakes at five and a half furlongs on the turf. It was his fourth career try on the green, and his fourth loss.
“The grass experiment is over,” said trainer John Tammaro 3rd, who has the 3-year-old colt by Horse Chestnut entered in Saturday’s $70,000 Select Stakes at six furlongs on the main track.
“Not to say we don’t think he can grass, but for now we’ll go back to where he’s been successful, sprinting on the main track.”
Tammaro and owner-breeder John Bowers Jr. held out hope that Rough Road Ahead would be successful on turf because he’s a half-brother to Smart N Classy, who won the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes on the Monmouth grass in 2005.
But the New Jersey-bred has now been unplaced in three grass stakes tries and all three of his victories have come sprinting on dirt at Monmouth and the Meadowlands.
In his most recent main track start, Rough Road Ahead finished a bang-up second to Indy Joe in the Rumson Stakes here on May 31. And Tammaro says he thinks the colt is approaching the Select in top form.
“He’s coming into this race right back to where he was when he ran in the Rumson,” Tammaro said. “He’s been working great getting ready for this.”
“Working great” can be a standard line from a trainer, but in the case of Rough Road Ahead, it’s probably an understatement. The colt has put together three straight bullet works, signaling that he’s sharp as hands can make him.
On July 9, the colt had the best half-mile work (:47 1/5) of 32 at the distance that morning. On July 17, his five-eighths in 1:00 2/5 was best of 11. And most recently, on July 31, he worked five
furlongs in 1:01 flat, best of nine at the distance.
“He works fast all the time,” Tammaro said, “and that can be a problem because we can’t slow him down. But he’s doing well right now.”
Rough Road Ahead will have Stewart Elliott aboard as he seeks his first Monmouth win since he took a state-bred allowance here on May 11. His five rivals on Saturday include Indy Joe, who was third in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes and then ran fifth when stretched out in the Long Branch Stakes.