ACORN STAKES. | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 MILE
Even-money choice Contested went gate to wire as the easiest of winners by five lengths in the $300,000 Acorn Stakes May 28 at Belmont Park.
Javier Castellano was aboard the 3-year-old filly for trainer Bob Baffert, who conditions the winner for his wife, Jill. A rising star in the filly ranks, she scored her fourth consecutive win since making her maiden debut with a runner-up finish at Del Mar last September.
Contested ran the one-turn mile in 1:34.6, defeating five sophomore opponents in her first grade I test.
The winning daughter of Ghostzapper out of the Arch mare Gold Vault was coming off a 4 3/4-length victory in the Eight Belles Stakes May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm, Contested sold for $110,000 as a 2010 Keeneland September yearling.
Zo Impressive and Aubby K, who tracked the winner throughout, finished second and third, respectively. Second choice On Fire Baby was fourth.
Breaking from the rail, Contested sped to the lead and opened up a three-length in the first quarter mile as Aubby K, ridden by Edgar Prado, and Zo Impressive, with Rajiv Maragh aboard, took up the chase. Contested increased her lead to four lengths at the race's mid-point while carving opening fractions of :22.64 and :45.19.
Castellano asked Contested for a little more coming out of the turn as Aubby K drew within two lengths at the quarter pole. Meanwhile, Zo Impressive and On Fire Baby, advancing at the rail, were also getting closer. The six-furlong time was 1:09.32.
Contested dug in through the lane and remained clear to the furlong pole. She widened her advantage to the wire under a couple of light taps on the shoulder.
"She is really an amazing filly," Castellano said. "I hadn't ridden her before, only watched the replays a couple of times. What she does, she does so easily. I just wanted to sit still and not move until it was the right time, and the right place. She enjoyed the trip and just galloped."
Zo Impressive was no challenge to the winner but proved second best. She passed Aubby K near mid-stretch and finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead for second. On Fire Baby weakenend in the lane and finished another 3 1/2 lengths back in fourth. Hard Mystery and Sacristy trailed.
Contested, whose four victories have come by a combined 22 lengths, earned $180,000 to boost her career total to $324,754.
Assistant Jim Barnes, who saddled the winner for Baffert, said the result was "just what we wanted to see."
"You've got to play the break, it all depends on how you break. She basically caught a flyer, and they stayed off of her," Barnes said. "She went :22 and :45, so they didn't just give it to her. She was rolling right along. Javier said she reminded him of Ghostzapper."
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Contested paid $4.10, $2.90, $2.20, and keyed a $17.60 exacta. Zo Impressive, runner-up to Grace Hall in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in her most recet start March 31, returned $4 and $2.70. Aubby K, coming a 9 3/4-length victory in an allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream March 25, was $3.40 to show.