Six of the best sophomore fillies anyone has seen in New York in a long time will line up and face the starter in Saturday’s $700,000 Acorn Stakes (GI) set at a mile over Belmont Park’s main track. Two months ago many were wondering if the division had fallen apart thanks to the illness and defection of champion Songbird, but since then this standout group of fillies has proven nothing could be further from the truth.
Kentucky Oaks (GI) heroine Cathryn Sophia is back after a five-week freshening and will attempt to boost her career line to six wins from seven starts, with her only non-winning performance coming in a third-place finish in Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes (GI) nine weeks ago. With her Oaks performance, the John Servis-trained daughter of Street Boss put aside any questions about distance limitations and claimed her rightful spot as the new princess of her division. Her bullet work of five furlongs in :58 2/5 at Monmouth ten days ago is a good signal that she’s fit and ready, and her post position number five is perfect for this versatile lass to either go to the front from the break if she needs to or sit just off the pace.
Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner Go Maggie Go had some trouble in her fourth-place Kentucky Oaks finish, but put it all behind her to run away with the Black Eyed Susan (GII) at Pimlico three weeks ago, as was predicted confidently by trainer Dale Romans beforehand. She’s one who got a later start on her career than most of her filly counterparts, but she’s surely made up for it and has proven she belongs here as a top threat to win. Plus, she seems to be reaching peak form at the right time and the Mike Tapp homebred daughter of Ghostzapper drew the outside post, something that will aid jockey Luis Saez to put her in a good stalking position either following the field to her inside or heading to the lead herself.
Carina Mia also was a winner on Derby Day, having captured the Eight Belles (G2), and is another who, when she wins, does so by open lengths. Last year’s Golden Rod Stakes (GIII) winner faltered in the Ashland in her first start of 2016, but was back in business in the Eight Belles and looks to be rounding back into top form for trainer Bill Mott at the right time. Everyone considered the bay daughter of Malibu Moon to be a stone-cold frontrunner until her last when she closed from well off the pace to win, posting an impressive final time for the seven furlongs and earning a career-high speed figure. Julien Leparoux returns to ride and her post position number four is ideal for her jockey to figure out where her perfect trip will be.
Off The Tracks makes her second start for trainer Todd Pletcher after suffering her first career defeat when third in the Black Eyed Susan last out. She may have not liked the off track that day or the distance, but the former is more likely as the daughter of Curlin is certainly bred to run all day, so this one-mile event shouldn’t be of too much concern. Pletcher’s go-to jockey John Velazquez returns and the pair will break from post position two.
California shipper Forever Darling ships in after a runner-up finish in the Angel Flight Stakes three weeks ago and while a solid runner, this is by far the toughest field she’s faced and will need to bring her best.
Paola Queen was second in to Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Oaks before a dull ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. A really talented daughter of Flatter, she will have to run her absolute best and hope her more revered rivals throw in clunkers to have a say in the outcome.
Post time for the Acorn, which is the day’s third, has been set for 12:39 p.m. EDT.
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