Heavy rain forced the $245,000 New York Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) off the turf and that was just fine with Star Crown Stable’s Icon Project, who took over from tiring favorite Criticism at the top of the lane and sailed to a 13 1/4-length victory June 20 in the mud at Belmont Park.
Shipping up from Florida for trainer Marty Wolfson, Icon Project scored the biggest victory of her career in the scratched-filled stakes, which went to post with just five starters. It was first graded stakes win for the 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker, who was making her dirt debut. All eight of her previous starts had been on turf. She was ridden by California-based Jose Valdivia Jr.
Criticism, a winner of four of her last five starts, had an uncontested lead under Javier Castellano for most of the contest, cruising through fractions of :23.63, :47.41, :11:.85, and 1:36.60. The Machiavellian mare still led at the quarter-pole, but Icon Project, who had raced in fourth in the early stages but inched closer on the far turn, came up to challenge from the outside.
Icon Project came onto even terms with Criticism when she straightened away and sailed right by her rival. She increased her advantage with every stride and was wrapped up in the final yards. The final time for 1 1/8 miles in the mud was 1:49.38. The race was shortened from 1 1/4 miles when it was taken off the grass.
Criticism, sent off as the 7-5 choice, finished as the runner-up, 3 1/2 better than third place Winning Point
Icon Project, who was bred in Kentucky by Ronald Carter Family Trust and is out of the Lord At War mare La Gueriere, entered off a third-place finish in the April 25 La Prevoyante (gr. IIT) on Calder’s turf. Prior to that she won a two-turn allowance test April 12 at Gulfstream. The bay filly began her career racing in Europe, winning once in five tries. She has now earned $220,965.
“That was impressive," Wolfson said. "She had been training so well up to this race. I told her owner when she first came to this country, she was training so well on dirt I wanted to run her on dirt, but it didn’t turn out that way. Now, I’m not sure in which direction we’ll go. We’ll take some time to figure things out and then decide where she’ll go next.”
The winner paid $13.20, $4.80, and $3.40. The exacta (7-3) returned $42 and the trifecta (7-3-1) was worth $90.