Acapulco gets the job done at Turfway

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

February 20th, 2016

Queen Mary (G2) heroine Acapulco used Friday night’s 9TH race at Turfway Park as a soft comeback spot against overmatched rivals. Dispatched as the 1-5 favorite for what amounted to a paid workout under the lights, the Wesley Ward trainee had to work a bit harder to subdue front-running Sweet Ruth E. But Acapulco imposed her will late to win going away, and it’s all onwards and upwards from here.

Indeed, Acapulco achieved her objective in the six-furlong optional claimer. It wasn’t about putting on a show – although that would have been pulse-quickening. Rather, it was the first baby step in a plan culminating in a return trip to Royal Ascot for the June 17 Commonwealth Cup (G1).

Running in this race was worth a handful of works fitness-wise, and more important from the mental standpoint. In addition to getting her back into the competitive frame of mind off a six-month vacation, Acapulco also undertook a couple of experiments: she took the blinkers off for the first time in her brief career, and she was held up a little off the pace. This was definitely the place to try to teach her something.

Although breaking well beneath Irad Ortiz Jr., Acapulco conceded the early lead and eased back into fourth as Sweet Ruth E. sped an opening quarter in :22.91. The odds-on favorite remained in striking range, despite being relegated to fifth briefly between calls. If there was any doubt what she might find when called upon, the answer was forthcoming.

With Ortiz giving her the subtlest of cues, Acapulco smoothly advanced rounding the far turn through a half in :46.82. She had Sweet Ruth E. dead to rights at the top of the stretch, but the pacesetter proved stubborn. At the same time, Acapulco always seemed to have her measure, and Ortiz didn’t appear concerned down the lane. The farther they went, the more Acapulco asserted, drawing off by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:11.37. There was a chasm of 8 1/4 lengths back to Sweet Angel Roan in third.

It’s worth remembering that Acapulco hadn’t raced on Polytrack before. Sure, she’d been scorching up the Turfway worktab of late, but race conditions make a difference. And the evidence so far suggests that turf is her preferred surface.

Upset as the 3-5 favorite in her career debut on the Churchill dirt last May, Acapulco rebounded in style to break her maiden in Royal Ascot’s Queen Mary, dwarfing her rivals both in sheer size and speed. The chestnut amazon raced only once since, finishing a gallant second to soft-ground extraordinaire Mecca’s Angel in the August 21 Nunthorpe (G1) at York. If it hadn’t rained on the Knavesmire, Acapulco might well have become a rare 2-year-old winner of that sprint versus older horses.

We’ll know more about her Commonwealth Cup prospects as the spring progresses. Acapulco had an immense physical advantage over fellow 2-year-old fillies, a differential that may not be quite so dramatic when she lines up against 3-year-old males in mid-June. And they’ll be spotting her the three-pound sex allowance, not the gobs of weight she received from her elders in the Nunthorpe. Still, assuming she continues to thrive, Acapulco remains a top contender for the Commonwealth Cup.

Acapulco was bred by Dr. Charles Giles in Kentucky and originally sold for $180,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. At OBS the following March, however, she commanded $750,000 from M.V. Magnier. She has now bankrolled $210,792 from her 4-2-1-1 line for Coolmore principals Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith.

By the much-missed Coolmore sire Scat Daddy, Acapulco is out of the multiple stakes-winning End Sweep mare Global Finance. Her fifth dam is English champion filly Night Off, victorious in the Cheveley Park (1964) and 1000 Guineas (1965).

Acapulco's race replay starts at about 19:55: