This may be an uninspiring year for 3-year-old colts, but the fillies in the same generation are an exceptional group. Saturday, the two best of them will finally confront each other in the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park. It could be the best thoroughbred race of the year to date.
Neither Princess Rooney nor Ski Goggle has ever been beaten. Neither horse has even been seriously challenged. Ski Goggle has never seen another horse in front of her; Princess Rooney rarely has. So there is a great likelihood of an all-out, head-to-head duel in this one-mile event, which is the first leg of New York's Triple Crown series for 3-year-old fillies.
Princess Rooney compiled an outstanding record last season, winning all six of her starts by a total of 56 lengths, but was overshadowed by the ill-fated Landaluce, who was voted the Eclipse Award posthumously. This year, Princess Rooney has extended her winning streak to 10 races, although the worst performance of her life came in the Kentucky Oaks earlier this month. Having trained poorly before the race, she scored a narrow victory over mediocre rivals in mediocre time.
But now, trainer Frank Gomez thinks, she is back in peak form. "Princess Rooney is training as sharply as she ever has," he said. "Jacinto Vasquez has been working very hard with this filly. It's no secret she's been doing better in New York, in part due to his help."
Princess Rooney will have to be sharp, because Ski Goggle is by far the most formidable rival she has faced. Ski Goggle led from wire to wire to win all four of her starts in California this year by an average margin of eight lengths. She scored some of those victories while she had a shin problem, which is now corrected. What is most interesting about her, however, is the simple fact that she is here at Belmont. Races with $100,000 purses are everyday affairs in California, and yet trainer Tommy Doyle has shipped her across the country to take on the most formidable filly in the country. That's confidence.