Critical Eye earned her first career stakes win as she battled with pacesetter Plenty of Light through the stretch, winning by a nose in the $200,000 Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) Saturday at Belmont Park. Under Mike Smith, Critical Eye completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.54. The second highest price in the field at just under 25-1, Critical Eye paid $51.50, $17.80, and $16.20. The winning exacta combination, completed by 9-1 Plenty of Light, returned $495.50.
Over a fast track, Plenty of Light pulled to the early lead from the outside with Trip pressing the pace along the rail. After breaking a bit sideways, favorite Secret Status dropped well back off the pace, running alongside Resort as Plenty of Light raced through opening fractions of :23.02 and :45.81. Atelier moved up to challenge while three wide on the turn, followed by Critical Eye, who moved into contention as Trip began to fade. Plenty of Light continued to lead into the stretch but was soon challenged by Critical Eye. The latter edged to lead just past the eighth pole but could not establish a clear lead as Plenty of Light battled back along the rail.
"We had a good post, a great trip. Everything just worked out right," said Smith. "Her last race was super, and I even breezed her in between and she breezed great."
The win is the first grade I stakes win for trainer Scott Schwartz. Previous to the Gazelle, Critical Eye (Dynaformer--Critical Crew, by Dr. Blum) finished fourth in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), five lengths behind the winner. She was bred in New York by the trainer's father, Herbert T. Schwartz, who owns the filly. Critical Eye earned $120,000 for the win, her sixth in 14 career starts and first in a stakes race.
"She has a tendency to wait or hang around, but as long as someone runs with her, she'll keep going," said the conditioner. "We might run back here on New York Showcase Day (Oct. 21) in the Ticonderoga, or we may just stop. I don't know. She's developed into something special."
Plenty of Light came home 4 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Resort. Atelier, North Lake Jane, Secret Status, A. O. L. Hayes, and Trip completed the order of finish. (Chart, Equibase