Acorn Stakes 2020 at a glance

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The Longines Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park has a long, storied history as a significant race for 3-year-old fillies as it requires a combination of speed and stamina as a one-turn mile. The Acorn Stakes is a Belmont Stakes undercard race on Saturday, June 20 with a post time of approximately 4:15 p.m. ET.

NBC is home to the 152nd Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after the main event. Coverage runs from 2:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. on NBC, just hours after NBC’s coverage of the final day of the Royal Ascot in England. Stream the 2020 Belmont Stakes here.

LONGINES ACORN STAKES

Racetrack: Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Date: June 20
Purse: $300,000
Distance: One mile
Race: 8
Post Time: 4:15 p.m. ET
Notable winners: Top Flight (1932), Dawn Play (1937), Handcuff (1938), Twilight Tear (1944), Gallorette (1945), But Why Not (1947), Bayou (1957), Bowl of Flowers (1961), Cicada (1962), Furl Sail (1967), Dark Mirage (1968), Shuvee (1969), Susan’s Girl (1972), Ruffian (1975), Davona Dale (1979), Bold ‘N Determined (1980), Mom’s Command (1985), Open Mind (1989), Meadow Star (1991), Sky Beauty (1993), Inside Information (1994), Bird Town (2003), Round Pond (2005), Abel Tasman (2017), and Monomoy Girl (2018)
First held: 1931

The Acorn previously was the first race of the New York Filly Triple Crown and remains the leadoff leg of an important three-race sequence of New York races that includes the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks and 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes, both Grade 1 races at Saratoga Race Course.

The trio of races has gone through a series of branding and rebranding proposals through the years as the New York Filly Triple Crown and New York Filly Triple Tiara, yet each of the races stands on its own as a coveted jewel for any 3-year-old filly’s resume. From Top Flight in 1932 to Gallorette in 1945 to Shuvee in 1969 to Ruffian in 1975 to Inside Information in 1994 and Monomoy Girl in 2018, the Acorn has historically served as a springboard for dozens of rising star fillies.

This year, the Longines Acorn Stakes drew a field of seven 3-year-old fillies that features multiple accomplished entrants as well as several unbeaten, but unproven up-and-comers with tantalizing potential. Let’s take a closer look at the field for the 2020 Acorn:

1. Gamine (even-money morning-line odds): Into Mischief filly ships in from the West Coast for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert having won both of her two career starts. She enters off a neck victory at 1 1/16 miles as the heavy favorite in an allowance-optional claiming race May 2 at Oaklawn Park. I think there is a high chance she goes off as the overwhelming favorite trying stakes competition for the first time as this $1.8-million auction purchase will not fly under the radar coming out of the Baffert barn while picking up Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Expecting Gamine will offer little in the way of value, so I’ll try to beat her in the Acorn.
JOCKEY: John VelazquezTRAINER: Bob Baffert

2. Lucrezia (9-2): Another Into Mischief filly, Lucrezia enters off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks to Swiss Skydiver, who subsequently won the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes and Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks. Prior to that Lucrezia won the Sandpiper Stakes and one-mile and 40-yard Suncoast Stakes, both at Tampa Bay Downs, with the latter just a couple of ticks off the stakes record. Anticipating she runs a big one in this spot, hopefully at a decent price.
JOCKEY: Julien LeparouxTRAINER: Arnaud Delacour

3. Water White (10-1): Speed figures indicate she would need to take a significant step forward to be competitive here, but she rallied impressively to win the Busher Stakes at this distance March 28 in her most recent start. Conveyance filly could close for a top-three finish but not expecting to see her in the winner’s circle.
JOCKEY: Jorge Vargas Jr.; TRAINER: Rudy Rodriguez

4. Casual (3-1): Filly by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin out of multiple Grade 1 winner Lady Tak has lived up to her pedigree thus far with two wins in as many starts. She showed me a lot in her April debut at Oaklawn Park when she waited behind horses entering the stretch and then dug in gamely to prevail. Casual then showed a lot of fight again in the stretch May 22 at Churchill Downs when she edged away late to a clear win after almost being headed in the stretch. She has plenty of speed to carve out a nice stalking trip in the Acorn and has shown maturity beyond her years in two starts. The pick.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.TRAINER: Steve Asmussen

5. Glass Ceiling (20-1): Well-beaten in her stakes debut last fall in the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle Stakes, Glass Ceiling returned to one-turn races in 2020 and has won both of her starts by open lengths. This will be another class test as it’s her second try against stakes company, and at the Grade 1 level there is no margin for error. I’m not sure Glass Ceiling is fast enough to win, but a top-three finish is not out of the question.
JOCKEY: Joel RosarioTRAINER: Danny Gargan

6. Pleasant Orb (20-1): Filly by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home finished third behind an elite 3-year-old filly in Tonalist’s Shape in the Hollywood Wildcat Stakes May 15 at Gulfstream Park in her first try against stakes competition. Needs to make serious jump to win, but Pleasant Orb is one I’m adding to my virtual stable to keep an eye on. I think she’s legitimate but I’m skeptical she’s ready to win in this spot. Prefer her at a price underneath.
JOCKEY: Manny FrancoTRAINER: Barclay Tagg

7. Perfect Alibi (5-1): A Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old, she did not fare as well when stretching out around two turns – second by 6 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – but should appreciate cut back to a one-turn mile. Problem is, she has not raced in more than seven months, her speed figures at 2 were not especially inspiring, and trainer Mark Casse wins at only 12% off a 180-day-plus layoff. You never know how a talented 2-year-old filly will progress into her sophomore season, so Perfect Alibi is another that figures to vie for favoritism that I’ll take a stand against in the Acorn.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.TRAINER: Mark Casse

THE PICK: Casual

LIVE LONGSHOT: Pleasant Orb

SUPERFECTA: 4-2-6-3

Watch the 2020 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20 from 2:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.