The Acorn (Grade 1)- $700.000 Purse
BEL- For Fillies Three Years Old
One Mile on the Dirt
June 10, 2017
The Acorn is one of the great races that are a part of BEL weekend as it is common to see many who ran in the KYO come to New York to participate in this race, even though the distance is a little shorter. It’s $700.000 purse is enticing, that’s a figure that was increased in 2014 from a disappointing $300.000 up to $750.000 for a couple years before being scaled back to its current level. This is a tough race to win, as evidenced by a few big trainer names that do not yet have this title in their trophy case. It’s a field of twelve going to the gate, looking to accomplish what The Hanging Tree and Riggins Racing did last year. Let’s meet the field!
#1- Phun Stick (Axeman, ridden by G Boulanger)- The bloodlines are fantastic on this one, but that alone won’t get this filly to the winner’s circle in what is a tremendous step forward. She has five races in her career, all on the grass, and has won only one of them. Her stake debut came last month in ungraded event Hilltop Stakes at PIM in a small field, and while she was third, she as no match for the winner. I’m not seeing it.
#2- Valiant Champ (Mcl Stables, ridden by J A Vargas Jr)- Also a five-time starter in her young career, Valiant Champ has had more success winning races then Phun Stick, having done so three times. She’s predominantly raced in PA-breds, but her win in the PA-bred Foxy JG Stakes was an excellent effort. Like Phun Stick, she is making a big lead forward as well, but seems a little more prepared for this level of competition.
#3- Natural Zone (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- This filly has only three races to her credit, but has won two of them. After her maiden win at SA in April, the trainer brought her to PIM for PRK weekend, but had her in one of the smaller races, the ungraded $100.000 Skipat Stakes, and she turned in a 100 SRF in securing an impressive win while running on the lead. She’s never raced more then six furlongs, so that will temper some of the excitement when looking at her potential to stun the more experienced veterans, especially given her style. We’ll see how it goes.
#4- Impressive Mrs (Oval Express Farms, ridden by R M Hernandez)- In her last start, Impressive Mrs went to CD in late April and finished second in the $65.000 Roxelana Stakes in a five horse field. Should be safe to say that the trainer really liked that effort at six furlongs, because the three tries before that in better ungraded events were quite disappointing. Never count out this trainer though, because he seems to have a knack for getting horses like this to step up when it matters most.
#5- Fangs (John Henry, ridden by R Bejarano)- I’m happy to see John Henry having success with this filly, as he was really the only one who shared my belief when I was selling out, that she was capable of running in big races. John Henry has continued to bring her along, and she won the Grade 3 Miss PS Stakes in her last start. In all, she has won five of eight career starts, and only once has she failed to be part of the exacta. The distance she tries today does surprise me a little, but if she has developed her ability to go longer over the last few months, then I really feel she can win this race. I’ll be rooting for her!
#6- French Connection (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Interesting that we had to go about halfway down the starting gate before we get our first filly who also ran in the KYO. After a strong two year old season, she has put together four good runs this year. The highlight would be on April Fools Day when she won the Grade 2 FG Oaks to be able to punch her ticked into the KYO. In the Oaks, I don’t think she ran poorly, though did finish in the ever so frustrating fifth place position. It was sloppy that day, and we all deserve a chance to show what she can do on the anticipated fast track in the Acorn.
#7- Her Lucky Day (Mb Stables, ridden by M E Smith)- The second of three entries for Mb in this field, Her Lucky Day is a Commanding filly that looks to be just getting into her best form right now. She’s run well, and that includes a third place finish at the SUN Oaks in March, but still has only one win to her credit right now. Most recently, she ran in the Eight Belles at CD, and must not have liked the sloppy track as her performance was dismal. She gives me the impression of a horse that could threaten in a race like this, but it’s “too soon” for her. Watch for her in a few months.
#8- Komodo Freestyle (John Henry, ridden by J Talamo)- Very early in her career, prior trainer Australia Wide hyped her up quite a bit, and she would live up to that hype in the FL Sire Series, as she nearly swept those three events. This allowed her to rack up the earnings, but a run at the DED Jackpot against the boys seemed ill advised, and she would be sold three days after that dismal outing. She won her debut with John Henry in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, but has four races afterward where she was well out of it.
#9- K T D (Aer Stables, ridden by F Pennington)- The winner of the KYO has no excuses here. When she won the Oaks, it was a surprise as she had never won a stake before that, but she was still attractive to many as she went off as the favorite that day. Using the high standards that should be applied to the Acorn, this race has come up soft. She only meets a small handful of rivals that she faced that day, and none better then the fifth place finisher. K T D will have to contend with some up and comers, but she is the class of the field here. No excuses, and the definite horse to beat.
#10- Queenwood (Smokey Stover, ridden by J R Leparoux)- This filly could crash the K T D Oaks/Acorn double plan, as prior to the Oaks, she was on incredible form down at OP. She won three stakes in a row down there, including the Grade 3 Fantasy and Honeybee. Then, on Oaks day, there came heavy rain, and Queenwood was affected by it. I can’t completely throw that out on the basis of the rain though, as she was not competitive in any way, finishing 13th, and nearly off the viewer when K T D crossed the finish line. Queenwood will be better here, and can pick up a check, but I wouldn’t look for more then that.
#11- Musical Treat (Mb Stables, ridden by J J Castellano)- Our third entry from Mb Stables in this field, and she brings a little more experience to the table then the other two. She’s won two of three this year, with the win at the $200.000 SUN Oaks being her first stake win and the race that got her into the KYO. Her performance that day can be considered average, but not great, finishing in the middle of the field in the slop. I am more inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt with the conditions then I am with Queenwood as she was still reasonably competitive. She will be that way again here.
#12- Secret Affair (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by J Velazquez)- On the outside, TwinTowers saddles a likely longshot for the race, but also one that could play spoiler. With wins in three of seven career starts, it was not until her last effort, a win in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes in her stake debut, did she look like she could run at this level. I like how she stepped up in that race, and would like her more here if she did not have to start from this post. Still warrants consideration.