Favored Round Pond pounced on the leaders inside the final furlong and pulled away for her fourth straight win in the $250,000 Acorn (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park Saturday.
The Smarty Jones combination of jockey Stewart Elliott and trainer John Servis earned another group I victory, this time for owner Fox Hill Farm.
Round Pond, a daughter of Awesome Again
from the Trempolino mare Gift of Dance, won her first race since her 4 1/2-length triumph in Oaklawn's Fantasy (gr. II) April 15. She was making her grade I debut in the Acorn after winning her previous three races by a combined margin of more than 18 lengths.
Smuggler finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner, and In the Gold wound up third in the one-turn one-mile event, which was timed in 1:35 1/5 on a fast track.
Round Pond, breaking from the rail in a small but solid field of six, bobbled leaving the gate but settled in behind speedy fractions (:22 2/5, :44 3/5, 1:09 3/5) established by Splendid Blended, who was pressured by Seek a Star and later Smuggler. Spendid Blended, ridden by Jerry Bailey in her first start since winning the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) in December, gave up the lead in the stretch after being softened up by the fast early pace.
In the Gold, moving three wide in the stretch for Rafael Bejarano, seized the lead from Smuggler inside the eighth pole and appeared to be a winner until Round Pond, who was always in striking distance, launched her winning rally.
"She was fresh," Elliott said. "She got covered up with horses and that might have been the best thing that could have happened. She really settled in there. It just worked out."
Smuggler, between horses, also put in a strong bid when suddenly, Round Pond found her best stride and rolled on to win.
"Turning for home, it looked like Stew was sitting still on her," said Servis. "But I couldn't really tell because there were horses in front of her. When he eased her out, I knew he had horse. She's a good filly.
"We'll see how she comes out of this and go from there. She's got the talent and that's what it takes. You've got to have ability to get this kind of race won."
He said the Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga in August is the next main goal for Round Pond.
A stubborn Smuggler, ridden by John Velazquez, came back to tag the faltering In the Gold by a head for the place spot. Splendid Blended was fourth, a half-length farther behind.
Trainer Shug McGaughey was disappointed by the result but not by the performance of Smuggler, an Unbridled filly whose record is now 3-2-0 from five starts.
"For her to step up like that in her second start this year and run like that in a grade I was big," McGaughey said. "She may have been a little keen going down the backside. She kicked a couple of times for him and I'm really pleased. I'm always disappointed in losing, but I am really pleased with her."
Round Pond, a $105,000 Keeneland buy as a yearling in 2003, won for the fourth time in five starts while increasing her earnings to $367,300. Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan bred the winner in Kentucky.
She paid $6.50, $4.30, and $2.90. Smuggler returned $6.40 and $3.40 as part of the $51.50 exacta. In the Gold was $2.50 to show.
After Splendid Blended, who was narrowly edged for favoritism by Round Pond, came Seeking the Ante and Seek a Star.