06/10/2006 12:00AM

Bushfire burns bright


ELMONT, N.Y. - A hot pace and several looming threats all could have conspired to defeat Bushfire on Saturday in the $250,000 at Belmont Park, but she tenaciously turned back Hello Liberty and Last Romance to win the Grade 1 race for 3-year-old fillies on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Bushfire ($11.20), under jockey Alex Solis, prevailed by a neck over Hello Liberty, with Last Romance another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Adieu, the 9-5 favorite, was fourth and was followed, in order, by Ermine, She's Excellent, and Teammate.

Bushfire completed the mile on the fast main track in 1:35.89.

Nine arrived at the gate for the Acorn, but only seven started. The start was delayed for several minutes because Miraculous Miss flipped in the gate and became cast, and she struck Wonder Lady Anne L, who was in an adjacent stall, during the commotion. Those two fillies were scratched, and the remaining seven runners had to be removed from the gate as the starting gate crew worked to free Miraculous Miss.

Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said that Miraculous Miss had "some minor scrapes," and that Wonder Lady Anne L had a scrape on a hind leg. He said Miraculous Miss "was pretty reasonable" while awaiting workers to free her, and did not hit Teammate, who was in the other adjacent stall.

After the field was reloaded and sent on its way, Bushfire zipped to the front. Racing into a stiff headwind down the backstretch, she led through an opening quarter-mile in 22.28 seconds, then was right behind Hello Liberty through a half-mile in 45 and six furlongs in 1:09.43. Bushfire, racing along the rail, bravely battled back in the final furlong to get the victory.

"Those were some fast fractions going against the wind," Solis said. "She really dug in when that filly came to her. She just kept trying and trying."

Ermine broke poorly, made a moderate run on the turn, and flattened out. Teammate was sitting in a perfect stalking position on the turn, but she backed up readily in the stretch.

Bushfire has now won five times in her seven starts. Eddie Kenneally trains Bushfire, a daughter of Louis Quatorze, for Ron and Ricky Rashinski.