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2023 Acorn Stakes Replay | Pretty Mischievous Backs Up Kentucky Oaks Win With Another Big Score
Pretty Mischievous (left) holds off Dorth Vader (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Acorn Stakes Replay | Pretty Mischievous Backs Up Kentucky Oaks Win With Another Big Score

The Brendan Walsh-trained Pretty Mischievous won the 2023 Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, reasserting her dominance over the 3-year-old fillies class after a similar score in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Making her 1st start for new trainer George Weaver, Dorth Vader fought hard to finish a close 2nd. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Pretty Mischievous wasn’t fazed by a step up in class when she captured the prestigious Kentucky Oaks in her Grade 1 debut last out. Facing another field of top-flight 3-year-old fillies on Friday, she moved to 2-for-2 in Grade 1s, taking command in the stretch and fending off Dorth Vader’s bid to her inside by a head to win the $500,000 Acorn presented by Great Jones Distilling Co., a 1 1/16-mile contest at Belmont Park.

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Pretty Mischievous commenced her sophomore campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra in February at Fair Grounds before running a strong second in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks the next month over the same track, setting her up for her win by a neck over Gambling Girl in a statement-making victory in the Kentucky Oaks on the eve of the Kentucky Derby last month.

After showing fortitude in capturing the Oaks, the Into Mischief filly again demonstrated resolve. Under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, Pretty Mischievous sat off 8-5 favorite Munnys Gold’s early pace, as she led the eight-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.34 seconds, the half in 46.37 and three-quarters in 1:10.86 over the fast main track.

Entering the stretch out of the one-turn route, Pretty Mischievous overtook a tiring Munnys Gold. Dorth Vader, at odds of 11-1, made a game challenge under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, nearly running on even terms to Pretty Mischievous’ inside before Gaffalione coaxed more out of his filly, where she outkicked her rival and hit the wire in 1:43.33.

Dorth Vader finished four lengths ahead of Occult for runner-up honors, with the Todd Pletcher-trained Munnys Gold coming in fourth. Accede, Randomized, Frosty O Toole and Goodgirl Badhabits completed the order of finish.

“I just wanted to make sure my filly felt her [Dorth Vader] and acknowledged that she was there,” Gaffalione said. “I knew [Dorth Vader] wouldn’t have been able to get by once she figured out someone was there.

“I’m just so proud of her. She’s really developed into an amazing filly,” Gaffalione continued. “She seems to just be getting bigger and stronger with each race. I can’t wait for the day she finishes out one of her races. She gets to the lead and she kind of waits. She just has so much talent. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her yet.”

Off as the 9-5 second choice, Pretty Mischievous returned $5.80 on a $2 win bet. She improved to 6-1-1 in eight career starts. She also gave veteran trainer Brendan Walsh his first Grade 1 victory on the NYRA circuit.

“What’s funny is that in the blink of an eyelid, when Todd’s filly kind of backed up, she was in front [and] I was worried because she will idle a little bit, like she did in the Oaks and she did it again today,” Walsh said. “She’s just a great filly. It’s unbelievable and such an honor to have her for the people we have her [for]. I think she’ll get better and better as the year goes on. She’s still got a bit of furnishing to do. We still have a little ways to go.”

Dorth Vader, a Florida-bred trained by George Weaver, made her first start since running fifth in the Kentucky Oaks and earned black type for the first time since capturing the Grade 2 Davona Dale in March at Gulfstream Park.

“She fought hard,” Velazquez said. “I think she got a little bit surprised by the horse outside of her [Pretty Mischievous]. But she put in a really good fight. She’s got a lot of heart and she showed that today all the way to the wire.”

Occult, trained by two-time Acorn winner Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz, made just her fifth career start and second graded stakes appearance after running fifth in the Grade 3 Gazelle in April at Aqueduct Racetrack.