05/27/2013 6:30PM

Belmont Park: Midnight Lucky takes command in Acorn

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Barbara D. Livingston
Midnight Lucky, with Rosie Napravnik riding, pulls away in the Acorn.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Rebounding from a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, Midnight Lucky turned in a dominating performance to win Monday’s 83rd running of the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes by better than six lengths over Close Hatches, who was exiting the Kentucky Oaks as well.

Midnight Lucky lost her footing at the break, but recovered quickly beneath Rosie Napravnik to get a favorable early position just outside of Momentary Magic, who was coming off a maiden win but nonetheless out-sprinted everyone for the lead.

Midnight Lucky kept second choice Kauai Katie - who had also stumbled at the start - hemmed in along the rail down the backstretch, as Momentary Magic set fractions of 22.53 and 45.28 seconds.

After six furlongs in 1:10.02, the first flight bunched briefly and track announcer Tom Durkin exclaimed, “It’s wide open at the top of the stretch.”

But just as quickly, Napravnik set Midnight Lucky down, and she spurted away from the field in a flash, widening steadily to report home by 6 1/4 lengths.

Close Hatches outfinished Kauai Katie for second by three-quarters of a length. It was the same margin back to Cue the Moon in fourth, followed by Let Me Entertain U and a spent Momentary Magic.

“We had a great trip,” said Napravnik. “I really liked the post position and we were able to sit off the speed. Kauai Katie actually kind of had to sit back, so it was good for us, too. This filly just did it very easily, and she’s a very, very nice filly.”

Midnight Lucky ($4.20) won for the third time in four starts and became the third Acorn winner in the past five years for trainer Bob Baffert, joining Gabby’s Golden Gal (2009) and Contested (2012). She ran one mile in 1:35.11 seconds over a fast track.

Assistant trainer Jim Barnes said he had expected perhaps Kauai Katie to be on the lead, not Momentary Magic, “but other than that it shaped up as I expected. I wanted to be sitting anywhere from two to 2 1/2 lengths off the pace, which we were. They were moving right along, and at no point did it look like she was struggling with the racetrack. She’s just a really nice filly, and we’re happy to train her. The plan now is day by day. We’ll go back to Churchill and go from there.”