Only six sophomore fillies were entered for Saturday’s $700,000 Acorn (G1) on the Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard, but included in that group are the winners of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2).
Cathryn Sophia, the Kentucky Oaks queen, and Go Maggie Go, heroine of the Black-Eyed Susan, each show just one loss on their respective records. Go Maggie Go actually suffered defeat at the hooves of Cathryn Sophia in the Kentucky Oaks, and Saturday’s rematch should prove epic.
Cathryn Sophia competed twice as a juvenile, dominating her rivals by a combined 26 lengths, before opening her three-year-old campaign with a 5 1/2-length victory in the Forward Gal (G2) on January 30 at Gulfstream Park. She followed that with a seven-length romp in the Davona Dale (G2), then shipped to Keeneland for her final Kentucky Oaks prep.
Alas, Cathryn Sophia suffered her only loss to date in that 1 1/16-mile affair. The Street Boss filly held the lead in the stretch but was caught on the wire to be a half-length third. Javier Castellano has been aboard since the Davona Dale and retains the mount on Saturday.
“It’s a solid field for sure,” trainer John Servis said. “I’m not sure if you can compare it, because of the different distances, but it’s a good field of fillies.
“She looks great. (Strategy) will depend on how the race sets up, but I’ll leave that up to Javier.”
Servis added that Cathryn Sophia, who posted a five-furlong bullet in :58.40 at Monmouth Park on June 1, will arrive at Belmont Park on Friday.
Go Maggie Go entered the Kentucky Oaks boasting a two-for-two mark, including a 2 1/4-length score in her stakes bow, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
“She’s the first horse I ever took off a maiden win and won a Grade 2,” trainer Dale Romans said. “I’m glad I did, because it put us right where I need to be in these other races.
“Nobody expected her to do that (win a Grade 2 in her second start) and I didn’t know that she could. I just figured she was doing good and like we say, if they’re doing good, run them. She was impressive.”
The bay daughter of Ghostzapper suffered a terrible trip in the Kentucky Oaks, being squeezed at the start and steadied between horses on the backstretch, then finding herself seven wide and forced even farther out in the midstretch run.
Despite all that Go Maggie Go rallied under jockey Luis Saez, who has the return call on Saturday, to make up ground late for fourth on the wire, just missing third by a head and second by another neck.
“The best race she ever ran was the Oaks,” Romans asserted. “She got left and it was the first time she really ate a lot of dirt. I think if (Saez) stayed left-handed from the quarter-pole, she’d (be) second.
“I thought that was a very impressive race. The wins are nice, but she overcame a lot to be where she was in that 14-horse field of good fillies.
“She’s special,” Romans added. “It’s going to be a good race. It’s a really hot race, and you could see a champion come out of there.”
While all eyes will be on the showdown between Cathryn Sophia and Go Maggie Go, another contender in the one-mile Acorn is Carina Mia.
That Bill Mott pupil has proven herself going long and short, taking last year’s 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod (G2) under the Twin Spires by 4 1/2 lengths and most recently sprinting to a six-length triumph in the seven-furlong Eight Belles (G2), also at Churchill. It could be she’s a horse-for-the-state, as Carina Mia has never competed outside of Kentucky and broke her maiden at Keeneland by 9 3/4 lengths last October. She’ll try to carry that form north to Belmont Park and brings along regular rider Julien Leparoux.
Forever Darling, Off the Tracks and Paola Queen complete the Acorn field. The former seems to prefer shorter distances, being well-beaten each time she stretched out to 1 1/16 miles, but gets a new locally based jockey in Irad Ortiz Jr. for this one.
Off the Tracks finished third behind Go Maggie Go and Paola Queen in the Gulfstream Park Oaks last out and will attempt to turn the tables on at least one of those two in the Acorn. Paola Queen ran to her 64-1 odds in the Kentucky Oaks off her stakes debut second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. She’ll have to find a lot more to challenge in this spot.
Cathryn Sophia photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Go Maggie Go photo courtesy of Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club