December 9, 2022

Stakes newcomers Gamine, Casual loom large in Acorn

Speech (outside) narrowly lost to Gamine at Oaklawn in April (Coady Photography)

The $300,000 Acorn (G1) in recent years has been a target for newly crowned Kentucky Oaks (G1) winners. As with many things in the era of COVID-19, that has been turned around.

With the postponement of the Oaks until Sept. 4, the one-mile Acorn at Belmont Park on Saturday has turned into a points-earning prep for the Churchill Downs event. The Bob Baffert-trained Gamine tops a field of seven vying for qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers.

A $1.8 million juvenile purchase by Into Mischief, Gamine enters her stakes debut with a 2-for-2 record. Dominant in a 6 1/4-length maiden score at Santa Anita going 6 1/2 furlongs in early March, Gamine was all out to win a 1 1/16-mile Oaklawn allowance against Speech in a terrific stretch battle. That rival was subsequently second in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

“We took our time with her, let her develop. Her two races have been really nice races,” Baffert said. “I could have stayed home and run her here two turns in the (Santa Anita) Oaks but I wanted to give her a couple extra weeks. I thought the Acorn with the bigger, wider turns, I think she’ll like that.

“She’s fast. At Oaklawn, she just broke and made the lead easily. I’ve been breezing her and going easy with her. The other day I worked her and she tracked a horse all the way. She’s still just learning. But she’s going to be forwardly placed. She’ll be up there close.”

Another interesting stakes newcomer is Casual, the Steve Asmussen-trained daughter by Hall of Famer Curlin and out multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Lady Tak. Casual recorded back-to-back wins this spring at Oaklawn and Churchill going 6 and 7 furlongs, respectively.

Multiple stakes winner Lucrezia was most recently second in the Mar. 28 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) to Swiss Skydiver, who went on to capture the Fantasy (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks. Returning from a longer break is 2019 Spinaway (G1) winner Perfect Alibi, who finished second in the Alcibiades (G1) and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to British Idiom.