Paul Pompa Jr.’s multiple graded stakes winner Backseat Rhythm will try to bounce back from a troubled fifth-place effort in last month’s Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT), as she takes on seven fillies and mares in the $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes (gr. IIT) May 23 on the Belmont Park turf.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Backseat Rhythm is a three-time graded stakes winner, including a triumph in the Garden City (gr. IT) last fall over the Belmont grass. That win makes her the lone Sheepshead entrant with a grade I victory on American soil. McLaughlin’s other entrant, Colina Verde, has won multiple group I stakes in her native Brazil, but has not had the same success in the states.
On paper, Backseat Rhythm’s biggest threat looks to be Darley Stable’s homebred Criticism, who enters off a victory in the La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIT) last month at Calder Race Course. Post time for the 1 3/8-mile event is scheduled for 5:17 p.m. EDT.
A 4-year-old daughter of El Corredor—Kiss a Miss, by Kissin Kris, Backseat Rhythm opened her 2009 campaign with a third-place finish in the Feb. 22 The Very One (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park, and three weeks later scored by a nose in the Hillsborough (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay Downs. In the April 11 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, the bay filly was in perfect stalking position through the backstretch under Eibar Coa, but was bumped at the top of the lane and had to be steadied while Forever Together went on to win.
Backseat Rhythm, who was bred in Kentucky by Hill ‘n’ Dale and Spast Farm, has recorded three of her five lifetime wins on the Belmont grass, and has done no worse than third in her five starts on the course. An earner of more than $800,000 from 16 starts, she will be ridden by Coa once again. She drew post 1.
Highfield Stock Farm, Team Valor, and Gary Barber’s Colina Verde, a 5-year-old Know Heights mare, won her U.S. debut at Santa Anita in allowance company but has failed to hit the board in three starts since. Alan Garcia has the mount.
Criticism has been on a nice roll since making her U.S. debut last October in the Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont. The Machiavellian mare was runner-up by a half-length in that race, but then came back to take the Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct to conclude her season. She opened 2009 with a victory in The Very One when beating Backseat Rhythm by 5 1/2 lengths as the 2-1 favorite.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, Criticism tired to finish third as the odds-on choice in the Orchid (gr. IIIT) in March at Gulfstream but rebounded to win the 1 1/2-mile La Prevoyante in wire-to-wire fashion on April 25.
“I think she is suited to races at a mile and a quarter, a mile and three-eighths and a mile and half,” Albertrani said. “She doesn’t have to be on the lead. She has very good tactical speed and I don’t think she prefers soft or firm turf. She’s very game and very classy and she will run on anything.”
Sharing top weight of 120 pounds with Backseat Rhythm, Criticism will have Javier Castellano aboard.
Also coming off sharp allowance wins at Keeneland are Stewart Armstrong’s Venetian Causeway and Brushwood Stable’s Mushka—both 4-year-olds. Mushka, winner of the Demoiselle (gr. II) as a juvenile, missed by a head in the Suwannee River (gr. IIIT) in February, but was sixth to Backseat Rhythm in the Hillsborough.
$150,000 Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:17 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Backseat Rhythm, E Coa, 120, K P McLaughlin
2. Venetian Causeway, J Lezcano, 116, C R McGaughey III
3. Criticism (GB), J Castellano, 120, T Albertrani
4. Shadiyna (IRE), R Maragh, 116, C Clement
5. Mushka, R A Dominguez, 116, W I Mott
6. Russian Rosie (IRE), C H Velasquez, 116, R L Attfield
7. Caprice (GER), E S Prado, 116, H G Motion
8. Colina Verde (BRZ), A Garcia, 118, K P McLaughlin