Belmont Park's Triple Tiara series for 3-year-old fillies begins Friday with the 71st running of the one-mile, $200,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I), which will likely feature Carl F. Pollard's champion Caressing. This year's Acorn will be linked with the Belmont Stakes in a special daily double wager offered by the New York Racing Association.
Caressing completed her major preparation for the Acorn with a five-furlong work over a fast track at Churchill Downs on Sunday. She completed the work in :59 3/5 after getting the half-mile in :47. She then galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, according to Churchill clockers.
"That was exactly what I wanted," trainer David Vance said. "I'm thinking about running her up there (in New York) three times in six weeks. I didn't want to squeeze her too hard and the racetrack's just a little bit dull this morning, anyway."
Caressing's sophomore campaign was delayed due to a fever, but she did make it back to the races in early May, when she won the seven-furlong La Troienne Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. The David Vance-trained Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner will stretch out an additional furlong while making her second start off the layoff in the one-turn Acorn. A product of the first crop of sire Honour and Glory -- who as a 3-year-old defeated older horses in the Metropolitan Mile Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park -- Caressing has won four of six career races.
"She's ready," Vance said. "For her to work in a minute is like doing nothing, really. I can work her in :59 or :58 if I want to. I didn't put any company with her in any of her works this time because I didn't want her going any faster."
Vance plans to race in all three races in the Triple Tiara series should the filly perform well in the Acorn. She will fly to New York Wednesday with Belmont Stakes hopefuls Point Given, Dollar Bill, and Buckle Down Ben.
Also pointing to the Acorn is Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) runner-up Real Cozzy. Real Cozzy raced on Lasix for the first time in the Oaks, where she improved from a ninth-place finish in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II), but trainer Danny Peitz credits chiropractic work for the improved performance.
"She's had some chronic back problems. I think she struggled with the track in the Fantasy and came out of it pretty sore," Peitz said. "We worked on her with acupuncture and a chiropractor. We got real aggressive doing that in the past and it paid off."
The gray daughter of Cozzene was unraced as a 2-year-old due to shin problems, but has won three of five starts since making it to the races in January. Prior to the Fantasy, Real Cozzy upset subsequent Fantasy winner Mystic Lady and She's A Devil Due in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II).
On Friday, Real Cozzy worked five furlongs at Belmont Park under jockey Robbie Davis in 1:00.63, handily. "She breezed well (Friday), came out of it good and ate good," Peitz said. "She came out of the Kentucky Oaks in much better shape than she did in the Fantasy."
Larry Melancon will ride Real Cozzy in the Acorn. "Robbie likes this horse a lot, too, and he did us a favor working her," Peitz said. "I told him that if Larry had another commitment or we decided to make a switch, he would be next in line."
Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) winner Latour, another likely Acorn starter, was also on track at Belmont Friday morning. She also worked five panels, getting the distance in 1:00.82 while breezing.
Others listed as probable for the Acorn are Cat Chat, Unbridled Elaine, Victory Ride, and With Ability. The New York Racing Association has Forrest Secrets and Starrer listed as possible.
Belmont Park will host the second leg of the Triple Tiara on June 30, when the 1 1/8-mile Mother Goose (gr. I) will be run. Kentucky Oaks winner Flute, who is being prepared for a run in the Mother Goose by trainer Bobby Frankel, worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Hollywood Park Sunday.
The three-race series concludes with the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), in which the fillies will run once around the 1 1/2-mile Belmont oval.