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Justwhistledixie looking for Acorn Score

ELMONT, N.Y. – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Justwhistledixie comes into Saturday’s 79th running of the Grade 1 $300,000 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park off back-to-back Grade 2 wins in the Davona Dale and the Bonnie Miss, both run at Gulfstream Park in March. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin believes she’s ready for her first Grade 1 score.

He thought the same a month ago when she was entered in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, but was forced to scratch at the last minute when the three-year-old daughter of Dixie Union limped in her stall just before the race.

“We scratched at about 2:45 and I felt terrible,” McLaughlin said. “But then at about 5:45 after the race was run I thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing!”

McLaughlin was referring to Rachel Alexandra’s effortless 20 plus-length victory in that race, after which she went on to beat colts in the Preakness. But Justwhistledixie is no slouch herself, coming into a competitive Acorn off a five-race win streak since she broke her maiden in October here at Belmont. The filly has never been out of the money in seven lifetime starts and McLaughlin says she is more than ready for the Acorn.

“The foot issue is over and behind us,” McLaughlin said. “The shoe had moved a little bit and we thought there might be an abscess, but no. She’s been working very well since her return to Belmont.”

McLaughlin will also saddle Stewart L. Armstrong’s Dream Play, who comes off a win in the Grade 2 Comely Stakes, and feels confident about both fillies.

“[Dream Play] has speed, so she should be forwardly placed,” McLaughlin said. “We think she deserves a shot at a Grade 1. I’d love to get them both Grade 1 placed or a Grade 1 win because neither has Grade 1 earnings, which is very important for fillies.”

After breaking her maiden at first asking in January, Westrock Stable’s Be Fair, conditioned by McLaughlin’s mentor and fall-of-famer D. Wayne Lukas, finished fourth in her last two starts – the Grade 1 Ashland and the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

“She’s been in the deep end of the pool, that’s for sure,” Lukas said. “She has a lot of quality and I think the one-turn mile fits her really well. I don’t know how she’ll like the ‘Big Sandy’, but we think she merits a chance.”

Mrs. C. Wilson McNeely’s Funny Moon will make her fourth lifetime start for trainer Christophe Clement, who is particularly pleased to have the Malibu Moon filly in his stable.

“She’s been very exciting for the last two months, because I rarely get any good dirt horses,” Clement said. “She’s getting better all the time and training very well. The way she trains, I’ll be very surprised and disappointed if she’s not competitive.”

Rounding out the field are Casanova Move, Gabby’s Golden Gal, Doremifasollatido, Livin Lovin, and Four Gifts.

The Acorn (race 9, 4:44 p.m.) is the fourth race in a $1 million guaranteed Pick 6 on races 6-11 and is part of the undercard on a 13-race live card that features the 141st running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes (ABC-TV; 6:27 p.m.) First-race post is 11:35 a.m., and ESPN will cover the scene from noon – 5 p.m.

 

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