06/07/2008 12:00AM

Zaftig arrives with Acorn win

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Indian Blessing was the champion of the division last year, but a changing of the guard was signaled when Proud Spell dealt her the first defeat of her career in March at Fair Grounds.

A further evolution was in evidence Saturday at Belmont Park when Zaftig, ridden by John Velazquez, glided past Indian Blessing with surprising ease to post a 4 1/2-length triumph in the 78th running of the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Zaftig chased Indian Blessing, the 7-10 favorite, through solid fractions in the one-mile Acorn, then took command without a fight after straightening away in the stretch. Near the eighth pole, Velazquez's whip suddenly came out of his right hand and went twirling high in the air - but to no consequence, as Zaftig, under a vigorous hand ride, went on to finish in 1:34.50 over a fast track.

"I wanted to be close," said Velazquez. "She took me to a nice place where I wanted to be and we put pressure on Indian Blessing. I was pretty confident."

Indian Blessing incurred a second straight defeat after going unbeaten in her first five starts, finishing second, another 17 1/4 lengths ahead of Game Face in a field of just four 3-year-old fillies. Golden Doc A was virtually eased by Kent Desormeaux when bringing up the rear, another 13 3/4 lengths back. Dance Gal Dance, expected to be a major pace factor, was an early scratch.

Zaftig, a gray Kentucky-bred by Gone West, returned $7.50 for her third win from five career starts. She is owned by Susan Moore and the M and M Thoroughbred Partners and is based at Belmont with trainer Jimmy Jerkens. In her previous start, Zaftig won the Grade 3 Nassau County at Belmont after finishing fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Comely at Aqueduct.

Proud Spell, who defeated Indian Blessing in the March 8 Fair Grounds Oaks, went on to win the Kentucky Oaks in her next start. She was among the fillies skipping the Acorn in favor of the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont on June 28.