A salty field of 10 3-year-old fillies will attempt to crack the tough nut of the $250,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) over a flat mile at Belmont Park Friday.
With Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) champ Ashado sitting this one out, the now horse could be Island Sand, who was the runner-up in the prestigious Oaks, run one day prior to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) April 30. Island Sand was sold privately and shipped to Midwest trainer Larry Jones after winning a pair of races, including the Busanda, over the inner track at the Big A this winter. Prior to the Oaks, she ran second in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklwan Park.
"She has improved as the distances have gotten longer," said Jones. "Every race has been better than the one before it."
Island Sand may have to continue that pattern, as the Acorn waters get deep with grade I winner Society Selection going. Society Selection took the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) over this layout last fall, and is coming in off a victory in the Comely (gr. III) April 9 for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. The Comely has proven to be a key race, with second-place finisher Bending Strings returning to win the Nassau County (gr. II) and Daydreaming coming back to take an allowance contest.
Another quality contender in the Acorn is the Bob Baffert-trained Victory U.S.A. She finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks after drawing off to take the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland April 8. She was also second to Ashado in the Fair Ground Oaks (gr. II) in March.
La Reina has enjoyed success at Belmont, and returns after a disappointing fourth of four in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes (gr. I). She is trained by new Hall of Fame inductee Shug McGaughey.
The field for the Acorn Stakes, in post position order with jockeys (all starters carry 121 pounds):
1) Magical Illusion (Jose Santos)
2) Society Selection (Jorge Chavez)
3) Bending Strings (Pat Day)
4) Pawyne Princess (Ramon Dominguez)
5) Island Sand (Terry Thompson)
6) Grey Traffic (Javier Castellano)
7) Bohemian Lady (Edgar Prado)
8) Victory U.S.A. (Jerry Bailey)
9) La Reina (John Velazquez)
10) Friendly Michelle (Alex Solis)