Bushfire, who had the early lead and then was passed by Hello Liberty in the stretch, fought back gamely down the lane to capture the $250,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) by a neck Saturday at Belmont Park.
Bushfire, a 3-year-old daughter of Louis Quatorze
, got the mile in 1:35.89 over a fast track. Hello Liberty finished second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Last Romance, who finished third, with favored Adieu running fourth.
Bred in Florida by Moreau Bloodstock International and Mandolynn Hill Farm, Bushfire is owned by Ronald and Ricki Rashinski.
Breaking from post 3, Bushfire went right to the lead in the one-turn Acorn under Alex Solis while between Adieu to her inside and Hello Liberty to her outside. As they ran down the backstretch, Bushfire edged out to a slight advantage over Hello Liberty and Norberto Arroyo Jr. as they got the opening quarter in :22.28 and a half-mile in :45.00.
Those two fillies ran close together, and it was several lengths back to the stalking pair of Teammate and Adieu.
As the leaders came out of the turn, Hello Liberty went to the front, with the six furlongs being run in 1:09.43; but Bushfire was not to be denied, and she fought back along the inside to regain the lead.
"Those were some fast fractions going against the wind," Solis noted. "She's a real nice filly. She really dug in when that filly came to her. She just kept trying and trying."
"My filly wanted to take the lead too early," Arroyo said of Hello Liberty. "I kept holding her and holding her – she had never run that far before. When I let her go, she couldn't open up more than three-quarters of a length. The other filly dug in. Either filly deserved to win. "
Last Romance, Edgar Prado aboard, made a strong move to get up into third position but never really threatened the top pair.
Bushfire, who was already a grade I winner off a 6 ½-length score in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland at odds of 15-1, returned $11.20, $5.70, and $4.20. Hello Liberty paid $8.10 and $5.40. Last Romance paid $7.30 to show. The 3-8 exacta returned $100.50
Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Bushfire redeemed herself off her last effort in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The filly finished third under Cornelio Velasquez, but was disqualified and placed six for a bumping incident at the sixteenth pole.
"In the (Kentucky) Oaks, she was very wide in the first turn but ran a good race," said Kenneally. "She's a gutsy filly. It was great to come back and rebound and win a grade I.
"Normally, in horse racing, when you get headed at the eighth-pole, you're going to get beat. She is just so game."
Bushfire has now won five of eight starts, with one third-place finish to her credit. Her $150,000 first-place prize ran her career earnings to $633,299. Earlier in the year, she also won the $200,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, giving her three wins in the past four starts.
The start of the race was delayed several minutes as Miraculous Miss rose up in her starting stall, breaking open her door, then flipping over to be perilously trapped beneath the gate. After several tense moments, she was extracted from underneath the gate and walked away. She was scratched, as was Wonder Lady Anne L, who was next to her in the starting gate in the No. 5 post. All of the jockeys dismounted from their horses for awhile before they remounted and entered the gate.
Adieu had every opportunity but stuggled in the stretch under Garrett Gomez.
"She was down inside," Gomez said. "Her willingness to help me out just wasn't there. I was just stuck down inside there. I made up a little bit of ground. By the time I got her out, she was wobbly."
Ermine, She's Excellent, and Teammate trailed.