The skies were clear at Belmont Park Friday, a day after racing was cancelled due to poor air quality and 48 hours after it looked as if the apocalypse had arrived in New York City. The surroundings, however, don’t seem to matter to Pretty Mischievous, who shows up anywhere, anytime in any conditions, at any distance.
Five weeks after winning the 9-furlong, 2-turn Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, Godolphin’s homebred 3-year-old filly recorded a similar result in the Acorn Stakes, run at 8.5 furlongs and around one turn.
Similar to the Oaks, when Pretty Mischievous hit the front in the stretch and had to hold off a hard-charging Gambling Girl, on Friday it looked as if she might pull away, only to have speed horse Dorth Vader come back on the inside and miss catching her by a head.
“She does idle a little; she arrives there so easy,” said winning trainer Brendan Walsh, who had added blinkers before the Oaks for that very reason. “She let that other filly come back and have a go at her at the end. But she got the job done, that’s the main thing.”
Tyler Gaffalione had Pretty Mischievous sixth after a quarter-mile with Munnys Gold setting the pace in a reasonable :23.34. As he did in the Oaks, Gaffalione moved Pretty Mischievous into striking position on the turn and took the lead at the eighth pole before it got tight late.
“She sort of just waits for other horses,” said Godolphin USA Director of Bloodstock Michael Banahan. “With the blinkers on, it has helped her a little bit. But watching that replay, it looked like the other filly wasn’t coming back. She’s a tough filly, she’s an honest filly and one of the better fillies we’ve had in training in America.”
And with wins at five distances, she gives Godolphin, which also owns beaten Oaks favorite Wet Paint, plenty of options moving forward.
“When we got to the Oaks we were pretty darn confident with Wet Paint as well,” Banahan said. “Internally, we could not separate the two fillies. We thought one was as good as the other. We didn’t think Pretty Mischievous should have been a 10-1 shot. If she happened to win the Fair Grounds Oaks, I think she would have been favored.”
Pretty Mischievous is out of the Tapit mare Pretty City Dancer, for whom Godolphin paid $3.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall mixed sale in 2018. Her first foal, Ornamental, born in 2019, has won once in six starts. Pretty Mischievous improved to 6-for-8 lifetime with $1,481,560 in career earnings.
“We’re so excited to have her,” said Banahan, not ruling out the 7-furlong Test at Saratoga in August. “We can go anywhere down the road. We might shorten her up again. We’d be happy to do that.”
Walsh said the Acorn has been a target all along.
“It’s a tribute to her what she’s done the last two starts,” he said. “I loved this race for her even before the Oaks. I had it in my mind that this race actually suited her better because of her natural speed. When she came out of the Oaks that good, it was a no-brainer, really. I think this filly is fast enough to win at seven-eighths or a 1-turn mile. She’s got so much natural speed.”
Friday proved a good day all-around for Godolphin, despite having to scratch With The Moonlight in the Grade 2 New York Handicap. The Charlie Appleby-trained Siskany came from behind to win the 2-mile Belmont Gold Cup, providing some momentum headed into Saturday, when Godolphin runs Strobe in the Grade 2 True North and fan favorite Cody’s Wish in the Grade 1 Met Mile.
“It’s a big day (Saturday),” Banahan said. “We are really excited to see what Strobe can do. I know he’s in against the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint) champion (Elite Power), but we are looking forward to it. And Cody looks awesome. It looks like he’s fitter than he was at Churchill, which is what you’d expect after that race (Churchill Downs Handicap). We’re hoping and expecting a big run tomorrow.”
BELMONT BITS: Chad Brown’s marvelous mare In Italian had another walk in the park on the turf in winning the Just a Game by 3 3/4 lengths as the 1-5 favorite … Brown was a winner again in the New York, as Marketsegmentation led every step of the way, setting a slow pace and easily holding off Didia, who carried a 7-race winning streak into the race … Bill Mott completed a two-win day when his Poppy Flower got up at the wire to win the nightcap, the Intercontinental Stakes.