06/08/2006 12:00AM

Teammate can't resist a Grade 1


ELMONT, N.Y. - A mile might be a little shorter than ideal for Teammate, and she has not run for three months. But the allure of a potential victory in a Grade 1 race makes the $250,000 Acorn Stakes a tempting target for trainer Allen Jerkens, who will bring Teammate back to the races on Saturday in a competitive renewal of one of Belmont Park's elite races for 3-year-old fillies.

The Acorn, a one-turn mile, has lured a field of nine, including such well-regarded runners as Ermine, the Kentucky Oaks runner-up, and Adieu, who won the Frizette over this track last year.

But the likes of Bushfire, who crossed the wire third in the Kentucky Oaks, and Miraculous Miss, who has won 5 of her 6 starts, makes the Acorn as challenging a betting race as the Belmont Stakes two races later.

appeared on her way to the top of the division a few months ago, when she recorded a six-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream Park, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 100. She came out of that race with a bruised left front foot, however, and that forced her to the sidelines.

"It took a long time to heal," Jerkens said at his Belmont Park barn on Thursday morning. "It didn't come out like it usually does. Hopefully she's ready. She worked good the other day. I think she might be better going longer. Eventually I think her best races will be around two turns. But a mile around one turn, most good horses can do it. It's long enough. And it's a Grade 1. If you can win it, it's a great thing."

Teammate used Lasix for the first time in the Bonnie Miss after finishing a distant second on a sealed, sloppy track in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park.

The Davona Dale was run on Feb. 4. The track that day at Gulfstream also hindered Miraculous Miss, a late-running sprinter who suffered the lone loss of her career on that track. Her trainer, Steve Klesaris, was eager to see the rain that has lingered at Belmont this week move out by Saturday.

"She really spun her wheels in the slop," Klesaris said Thursday from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, where he is based. "I'm hoping we don't get that kind of track."

most recently captured Aqueduct's Comely Stakes, which, like the Acorn, is a one-turn mile.

"She was very impressive," Klesaris said. "She just gets it done. She measures her opponents and gets it done. This is a good group of 3-year-old fillies. I hope she's up to the task."

was one of the best 2-year-old fillies in the country last year. She won 4 of her first 5 starts, including the Frizette, before finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She did not return to action until May 6, when she finished second in the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"I thought it was a good race," said her trainer, Todd Pletcher. "She was a little further off the pace than she needed to be. She finished up well. It was a good comeback for her first race since the Breeders' Cup. She should be sitting on a good race."

overcame an outside post and some early traffic trouble to rally for second in the Kentucky Oaks. She should get a good stalking position from her outside post.

Hello Liberty could prove the one to catch. She won the Nassau County going seven furlongs here on May 6. She has finished in the money in all seven of her starts.

Bushfire also figures to be forwardly placed. She was a front-running winner of the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland before the Kentucky Oaks, in which she finished third but was then disqualified to sixth for causing interference with 100 yards remaining.

Wonder Lady Anne L was fifth, then was moved up to fourth via the DQ, in the Kentucky Oaks. She was a distant second to Teammate in the Bonnie Miss.

The field

Acorn Stakes
Purse: $250,000; 1 mile; Grade 1

1Last RomanceE. Prado15-1
2AdieuG. Gomez2-1
3BushfireA. Solis5-1
4She's ExcellentF. Jara50-1
5Wonder Lady Anne LR. Bejarano10-1
6Miraculous MissK. Desormeaux8-1
7TeammateC. Velasquez6-1
8Hello LibertyN. Arroyo Jr.6-1
9ErmineR. Albarado4-1

* All starters carry 121 pounds
* Track odds
* Television: Saturday, 3:30-6 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN