Javier Castellano, riding Jill Baffert's Uncontested for the first time after replacing Martin Garcia in the irons, sent the Ghostzapper filly right to the front and she was never challenged en route to a five-length victory in the Grade 1 TVG Acorn at Belmont Park on Monday's Memorial Day program. Zo Impressive was a distant second behind the heavy favorite, with Aubby K third and On Fire Baby fourth in the field of six 3-year-old fillies.
The Acorn was the second graded stakes victory of the day for a daughter of the Adena Springs stallion Ghostzapper, whose Hall of Fame racing career ended at Belmont Park on Memorial Day in 2005 with a smashing victory in the Metropolitan Handicap. The Ghostzapper filly Better Lucky won the Sands Point one hour before the Acorn.
Contested broke smoothly and opened up a commanding lead after a quarter mie, setting all the fractions: 22.64, :45.19, and 1:09.32 en route to a final clocking of 1:34.61 on a fast main track. The Acorn was her fourth consecutive victory following a maiden win last October at Santa Anita, an allowance race at the Arcadia, Calif., track in April, and the G3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Castellano got the mount after the working relationship between Garcia and Baffert changed recently when Garcia, who worked Baffert's horses in the morning and rode many of them in the afternoon, said he wanted to branch out and establish relationships with other stables.
Contested, a $110,000 Keeneland September yearling, was produced form the Arch mare, Gold Vault. She was bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm.
Quotes, courtesy of NYRA media office
Jim Barnes, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert of Contested (No. 1): “It was very exciting. That's just what we wanted to see. 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. Javier said she reminded him of Ghostzapper.”
Javier Castellano, winning jockey aboard Contested (No. 1): “She is really an amazing filly. 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.”
Rajiv Maragh, jockey aboard runner-up Zo Impressive (No. 4): “I didn't want to challenge [Contested] too early. I wanted to time my move right, and approaching the quarter pole I made my move and my filly gave me all she's got. She tried really hard, but unfortunately she couldn't get there today. It was nothing to be disgraced about. It was a really good effort.”
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