Contested earned her first Grade 1 victory in front-running fashion Monday afternoon at Belmont Park, leading at every call in the 82nd running of the $300,000 Acorn Stakes.
Breaking from the rail, Contested dashed to an uncontested lead, opening up three lengths on the field in the first quarter of a mile. She hit the wire five lengths clear of Zo Impressive and stopped the clock at 1:34.61 for a mile.
“That’s just what we wanted to see,” said Jim Barnes, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert. “You’ve got to play the break, it all depends on how you break. She basically caught a flyer, and they stayed off of her. She went :22 and :45, so they didn’t just give it to her. She was rolling right along.”
It was the fourth consecutive win and second in a graded stakes for the 3-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, who in her most recent outing captured the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on May 4. The $180,000 winner’s purse of the Acorn more than doubled her bankroll to $324,754 as she ran her record to 4-1-0 from five starts.
“She is really an amazing filly,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “I hadn’t ridden her before, only watched the replays a couple of times. What she does, she does so easily. I just wanted to sit still and not move until it was the right time, and the right place. She enjoyed the trip and just galloped.”
It was the second Acorn victory for both Castellano and Hall of Famer Baffert, who teamed up to win the race in 2009 with Gabby’s Golden Gal. Baffert trains Contested for his wife, Jill (Natalie J. Baffert).
–NYRA Press contributed to this report.