The Longines Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park has a long, storied history as a significant race for 3-year-old fillies as it requires a combination of speed and stamina as a one-turn mile.
The Acorn previously was the first race of the New York Filly Triple Crown and remains the leadoff leg of an important three-race sequence of New York races that includes the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks and 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes, both Grade 1 races at Saratoga Race Course.
The trio of races has gone through a series of branding and rebranding proposals through the years as the New York Filly Triple Crown and New York Filly Triple Tiara, yet each of the races stands on its own as a coveted jewel for any 3-year-old filly’s resume. From Top Flight in 1932 to Gallorette in 1945 to Shuvee in 1969 to Ruffian in 1975 to Inside Information in 1994 and Monomoy Girl in 2018, the Acorn has historically served as a springboard for dozens of rising star fillies.
This year, the Longines Acorn Stakes drew a field of seven 3-year-old fillies that features multiple accomplished entrants as well as several unbeaten, but unproven up-and-comers with tantalizing potential. Let’s take a closer look at the field for the 2020 Acorn:
1. Gamine (even-money morning-line odds): Into Mischief filly ships in from the West Coast for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert having won both of her two career starts. She enters off a neck victory at 1 1/16 miles as the heavy favorite in an allowance-optional claiming race May 2 at Oaklawn Park. I think there is a high chance she goes off as the overwhelming favorite trying stakes competition for the first time as this $1.8-million auction purchase will not fly under the radar coming out of the Baffert barn while picking up Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Expecting Gamine will offer little in the way of value, so I’ll try to beat her in the Acorn.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
2. Lucrezia (9-2): Another Into Mischief filly, Lucrezia enters off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks to Swiss Skydiver, who subsequently won the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes and Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks. Prior to that Lucrezia won the Sandpiper Stakes and one-mile and 40-yard Suncoast Stakes, both at Tampa Bay Downs, with the latter just a couple of ticks off the stakes record. Anticipating she runs a big one in this spot, hopefully at a decent price.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux; TRAINER: Arnaud Delacour
3. Water White (10-1): Speed figures indicate she would need to take a significant step forward to be competitive here, but she rallied impressively to win the Busher Stakes at this distance March 28 in her most recent start. Conveyance filly could close for a top-three finish but not expecting to see her in the winner’s circle.
JOCKEY: Jorge Vargas Jr.; TRAINER: Rudy Rodriguez
4. Casual (3-1): Filly by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin out of multiple Grade 1 winner Lady Tak has lived up to her pedigree thus far with two wins in as many starts. She showed me a lot in her April debut at Oaklawn Park when she waited behind horses entering the stretch and then dug in gamely to prevail. Casual then showed a lot of fight again in the stretch May 22 at Churchill Downs when she edged away late to a clear win after almost being headed in the stretch. She has plenty of speed to carve out a nice stalking trip in the Acorn and has shown maturity beyond her years in two starts. The pick.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
5. Glass Ceiling (20-1): Well-beaten in her stakes debut last fall in the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle Stakes, Glass Ceiling returned to one-turn races in 2020 and has won both of her starts by open lengths. This will be another class test as it’s her second try against stakes company, and at the Grade 1 level there is no margin for error. I’m not sure Glass Ceiling is fast enough to win, but a top-three finish is not out of the question.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Danny Gargan
6. Pleasant Orb (20-1): Filly by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home finished third behind an elite 3-year-old filly in Tonalist’s Shape in the Hollywood Wildcat Stakes May 15 at Gulfstream Park in her first try against stakes competition. Needs to make serious jump to win, but Pleasant Orb is one I’m adding to my virtual stable to keep an eye on. I think she’s legitimate but I’m skeptical she’s ready to win in this spot. Prefer her at a price underneath.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco; TRAINER: Barclay Tagg
7. Perfect Alibi (5-1): A Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old, she did not fare as well when stretching out around two turns – second by 6 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – but should appreciate cut back to a one-turn mile. Problem is, she has not raced in more than seven months, her speed figures at 2 were not especially inspiring, and trainer Mark Casse wins at only 12% off a 180-day-plus layoff. You never know how a talented 2-year-old filly will progress into her sophomore season, so Perfect Alibi is another that figures to vie for favoritism that I’ll take a stand against in the Acorn.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Mark Casse
THE PICK: Casual
LIVE LONGSHOT: Pleasant Orb