05/31/2004 11:00PM

Island Sand seizes opening

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The Midwest-based trainer Larry Jones expected to make his New York debut later this month when he planned to run Island Sand in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on June 26. But, circumstances combined to move his itinerary up a little, and now Jones is in the Big Apple to saddle Island Sand in Friday's Grade 1, $250,000 Acorn Stakes.

Island Sand, who comes off a sharp second to Ashado in the Kentucky Oaks, was one of 10 3-year-old fillies entered for the Acorn, a one-turn mile race that is the last of 10 races on a Friday card that begins at 1 p.m. The Grade 3, $100,000 Flash Stakes for 2-year-old colts is also on the card.

Jones said the defections of Ashado and Madcap Escapade combined with how well Island Sand is doing prompted him to run Island Sand in the Acorn.

"There's still going to be plenty of tough horses in there, but at least it made it look like hitting the board was a very good possibility," Jones said. "We don't feel like the mile is her best distance - she wants to run on a little farther than that, I think - but we'll see, and it gives us a chance to get acclimated to New York.''

Island Sand began her career with the Maryland-based trainer Tony Dutrow. After Island Sand won an entry-level allowance race at Aqueduct on Dec. 27, James Osborne's B.A. Man Inc. purchased her from Michael Ryan's TYB Stable. Island Sand ran her first race for Osborne in the Busanda Stakes over Aqueduct's inner track, which she won by 1 1/2 lengths.

After that, Island Sand shipped to Arkansas and Jones and finished second behind House of Fortune in the Fantasy Stakes after breaking from post 11.

"We probably had to use our horse a little more than we would've wanted, and we could not hold House of Fortune off when she came to us," Jones said.

In the Oaks, Island Sand hopped at the start and was second-last early on. She made steady progress along the inside, moved up alongside Ashado approaching the quarter pole, but could not match strides with her late, falling 1 1/4 lengths short.

Terry Thompson will ride Island Sand from post 5.

While Island Sand figures to be one of the choices in the Acorn, trainer Bob Baffert may hold the strongest hand in the race with Friendly Michelle and Victory U. S. A. Friendly Michelle, who breaks from post 10 under Alex Solis, is coming off a victory in the Grade 3 La Troienne at Churchill, while Victory U. S. A. won the seven-furlong Beaumont on April 8 before finishing fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. Victory U. S. A. will break from post 8 under Jerry Bailey.

Graded stakes winners Bending Strings, Bohemian Lady, La Reina, and Society Selection, as well as Grey Traffic, Magical Illusion, and Pawyne Princess, also were entered.

* Primal Storm, a six-length maiden winner in his debut at Churchill Downs, will be the one to beat in Friday's Fashion Stakes at five furlongs. Trained by Steve Asmussen for his brother Keith, Primal Storm ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.29 seconds, missing Chilukki's track record by .29 seconds. Shane Sellers will ride from post 4.