Last Updated: 2017-06-08
The fourth race on Saturday at Belmont Park looks like it is going to be a very chalky one, but it is the Acorn Stakes, so a lot of eyes will be on the three-year-old fillies looking to take down one of the biggest wins in the sport. Kentucky Oaks champion Abel Tasman will be on hand looking for yet another win, but she will have to go through a challenging field, including one particularly tough competitor.
None of the fillies that ran three weeks ago in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes are in the field for this one. That includes Actress, who was a surprise winner in that event on the sloppy track at Pimlico. Unlike the Triple Crown on the male horse sides, the Acorn Stakes is actually shorter than the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown races, but the Acorn is a mile long and should be run at an honest pace with some good weather on tap for Elmont, New York.
Post positions have been drawn and here are the morning lines per the New York Racing Association as of June 8:
||Nikki My Darling
||D. Giglio, Jr.
Abel Tasman is the favorite for the team of Mike Smith and Bob Baffert and it’s easy to see why. A very strong performance on a track that looked like chocolate pudding in Louisville got Abel Tasman to victory lane in the Kentucky Oaks. Nobody else in the field for the Acorn Stakes finished higher than fifth in the Oaks and, as mentioned, none of these horses ran in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Abel Tasman has four wins and two places in her last six races, so you can assume she’ll be up near the top and oddsmakers are expecting that as well with the 2/1 line from Post #3.
It’s not a heavyweight title fight like Ali vs. Frazier, but it is interesting that two of the sport’s top trainers will likely go head-to-head in this one. Baffert’s Abel Tasman could really have her hooves full with the skill set of Sweet Loretta, trained by Todd Pletcher. The bloodline of Tapit has been all over these weekends of racing over the last five rags and he’s on hand here again with Sweet Loretta. In Sweet Loretta’s five graded races, she has wins in four of them, though she really struggled last year in the Juvenile Fillies race at the Breeders’ Cup. Her win at the Beaumont Stakes in April came in a Grade 3 race, but she does have a wins in a Grade 1 stakes race at Saratoga. At 5/2, she’s the primary challenger to Abel Tasman.
This really does look like a two-horse race. Baffert has three career wins in this race and Pletcher has two. Mike Smith, who will be riding Abel Tasman, has won this race four times, but not since 1998. Javier Castellano is one of the best riders in the history of the sport and has two wins in the Acorn Stakes. It’s hard to argue with that level of success and the best bet here is probably the chalky exacta or exacta box if you want to limit risk.
There are six other horses in the field, though, and a couple of them could very well surprise and land on the board in the top two spots. Per the odds, Salty, with the team of jockey Joel Rosario and trainer Mark Casse, is the most likely to make an appearance. Salty is listed at 4/1. Aside from Abel Tasman, Salty is the highest finisher from the Kentucky Oaks in this field. She was fifth in that race and won the Gulfstream Park Oaks just about a month earlier. Interestingly, the sire for both Abel Tasman and Salty was Quality Road, so maybe that bloodline gets to the window again here.
Benner Island, the winner of the Eight Belles Grade 2 race, last month is next in line at 6/1 with jockey Jose Ortiz. Benner Island is coming out of Post #5. Ironically, the horse that Benner Island held off in that race is Union Strike, who is starting in Post #1 for the Acorn Stakes. That win at Churchill in the Eight Belles is the only graded stakes race win for Benner Island, so some may look to ride the momentum.
Again, this looks like a very chalky Acorn Stakes with two superior horses and a lot that should be vying for third. Our advice is to incorporate the favorites in everything that you play, with Salty thrown in for those looking to make a trifecta or a box out of this race. Salty could be an interesting pick to win, but coming from the outside as a 4/1 shot probably doesn’t create enough return on investment.
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
This weekend at Belmont Park may not have the anticipation of last year without a Triple Crown contender, but a great weekend of horse racing is still on tap. One of Saturday’s “undercard” races is the first leg of the “Triple Tiara”, the unofficial Filly Triple Crown. The Acorn Stakes, the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, and the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga are the three races in New York state that make up the Triple Tiara.
This race, like the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, features nothing but female horses and will be run on Saturday afternoon at a length of one mile. This is the shortest of the Triple Tiara races, with the other two measuring 1.25 miles.
The first Acorn Stakes took place all the way back in 1931 when Baba Kenney was the winner. The 86th running of this race will feature a $700,000 purse and is a Grade I stakes race. The Triple Tiara was reconfigured by horse racing officials back in 2010 and no filly has been able to claim that distinction. In fact, under any format, no horse has won the Triple Tiara since 1993 when Sky Beauty did it. The only horse to have a clean sweep in the Acorn Stakes, the Mother Goose Stakes, formerly part of the Triple Tiara, the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes was Davona Dale in 1979.
There are only six horses taking part in the Acorn Stakes, but it is still a very interesting race. Here are the contenders for this year’s Grade I three-year-old filly race:
||Off the Tracks
||Go Maggie Go
Kentucky Oaks champion Cathryn Sophia has been green-lighted to come back and run in the Acorn Stakes. Cathryn Sophia was a little bit of a late addition to the Kentucky Oaks after Songbird was scratched with a fever. It was a pretty dominant performance for Cathryn Sophia, who closed the second favorite behind Rachel’s Valentina. With that win in the Kentucky Oaks, she has been installed as the overwhelming favorite for Saturday afternoon’s race.
Go Maggie Go is giving it a go in this weekend’s Acorn Stakes. Three weeks ago, she was triumphant in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico. She finished fourth at the Kentucky Oaks, but used the quick turnaround to her advantage. Go Maggie Go and Land Over Sea were the only two horses to return two weeks after running in the Kentucky Oaks. Land Over Sea actually closed the small favorite in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, but she finished sixth. Land Over Sea will run in the Acorn Stakes, leaving Go Maggie Go as the second favorite with odds of 3/1.
Carina Mia has gotten a lot of attention in the lead-up to the race. She’s the third favorite at 4/1. She’s won each of her last two Grade II stakes races with wins at Churchill Downs on May 6 in the Eight Belles and also the Golden Rod in November. She was fourth in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 9. She has the ability to run with the Grade I fillies, but it’s fair to wonder about her chances against horses that have proven themselves in the Kentucky Oaks and the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
Off the Tracks is one of the offspring of Curlin, who sired Curalina, who won this race last year. That was a winning combination for the John Velazquez/Todd Pletcher team, which is exactly what people are looking for from Off the Tracks. She hasn’t done a lot of running with the Grade I fillies, though she did run right win Go Maggie Go and Paola Queen on April 2 at Gulfstream in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Prior to that show finish, she had won three straight races. Adding an odd wrinkle to this race, Off the Tracks is running in the six-furlong Jersey Girl race on Friday at Belmont Park prior to Saturday’s Acorn Stakes.
Paola Queen ran in the Kentucky Oaks and finished ninth. She has a different jockey this time, with Jose Ortiz as the rider instead of Emisael Jaramillo. It will be the fourth straight race with a different rider for Paola Queen, so we’ll have to see what, if any, impact that has on her chances of winning. Obviously her chances of winning aren’t that great anyway, with a morning line of 15/1 after posts were announced.
Post time is 12:39 p.m. ET at Belmont Park for the Acorn Stakes, one of several undercard races scheduled prior to the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown.