06/08/2007 11:00PM

Cotton Blossom captures Acorn

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ELMONT, N.Y. - For the past two days, trainer Todd Pletcher had been battling the flu, and the early results of Saturday's card at Belmont Park could not have made him feel much better. But after watching favorites Wait a While and Deadly Dealer lose, and the sprinter Keyed Entry blow the turn, Pletcher finally got to the winner's circle Saturday when Cotton Blossom ran down favored Dream Rush to take the Grade 1, $250,000 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

"I'm struggling through it," a pale Pletcher said as he left the winner's circle.

Cotton Blossom ($14.60) should have put some color back in his face. She collared a weary Dream Rush inside the sixteenth pole and prevailed by one length. It was another 8 1/4 lengths back to Christmas Kid in third. Boca Grande, Princess Janie, and Officer in Pursuit completed the order of finish.

Cotton Blossom completed the one-turn mile on the fast main track in 1:34.70.

Dream Rush had won 4 of her first 5 starts, but was racing beyond seven furlongs for the first time. She broke from the rail and set wicked fractions of 22.24 seconds, 45.10, and 1:09.13 for the first six furlongs. She inched away from her rivals turning into the stretch, but the early pace took its toll. Dream Rush began to tire noticeably passing the eighth pole, and Cotton Blossom was able to wear her down.

Cotton Blossom, ridden by John Velazquez, had finished ninth most recently in the Kentucky Oaks, but it was a deceptively good race. She was in the hunt for a minor placing behind stablemate Rags to Riches, but she ran into a roadblock in upper stretch and was eliminated.

"It set up for her today," Velazquez said. "The speed went and she had a really good trip."

Cotton Blossom, a daughter of Broken Vow, has now won 4 times in 9 starts. She is owned by the Dogwood Stable partnership that is headed by Cot Campbell. According to Campbell, the other partners in Cotton Blossom are John Bitzer, Richard Kelso, Carl Myers, and Paul Orrefice.

"She was a little wide throughout [today]," Pletcher said, "but outside of that, she had a clear run. She had a nightmarish trip in the Kentucky Oaks. She wasn't going to win, but she was going to hit the board."

Garrett Gomez, who rode Dream Rush, said his filly "ran a winning race."

"When we turned for home, I thought we were going to win, but the other filly ran us down," Gomez said.