La Verdad seeks her first win beyond six furlongs as the even-mony favorite in a group of nine New York-bred fillies and mares to contest the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes going a mile May 31 at Belmont Park.
Since breaking her maiden at second asking, the 4-year-old daughter of Yes It's True has seven wins in eight starts at six furlongs. Her only loss outside of her debut was a second by one length after setting the pace in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park in February, her first stakes start.
Following the Fritchie, La Verdad regained winning form by taking the Broadway for New York-breds by 3 1/4 lengths in March, then won the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) by 3 3/4 lengths on April 19. Both starts came at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"She hasn't been a mile yet, but she did run seven furlongs well in Maryland," said trainer Linda Rice. "The timing was good for her on this race; I needed to give her a little bit more time after that graded win and wasn't able to make (the grade III Vagrancy May 17). She is training very well, and Sheila is pretty excited about running on (New York-bred) Showcase Day."
Rice and owner Sheila Rosenblum of Lady Sheila Stable have high expectations for La Verdad in the second half of 2014.
"It would open up options for us if she runs the mile well, but that's all speculation right now. We'll find out," said Rice. "Our long-term goal is to go to the Honorable Miss (gr. II) and the Ballerina (gr. I)."
La Verdad breaks from post 5 in the Critical Eye and will be ridden by Jose Ortiz under high weight of 123 pounds.
Others in the field include multiple stakes-winning second choice Sunny Desert and third choice Macha, the latter shipping in from the West Coast off a seventh in the Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) on March 15.
Also on the May 31 New York Showcase Day card at Belmont is the $125,000 Bouwerie for 3-year-old fillies. Expected to vie for favoritism in that spot are Flipcup, who closed out her 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the East View at Aqueduct, and Henry's Gal, who was claimed for $75,000 in March and won her two subsequent starts for Rudy Rodriguez by a combined 15 1/4 lengths.
Flipcup, making her second start for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, was installed as the 5-2 favorite on the morning line under Joel Rosario, while Henry's Gal, who will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, is listed at 3-1.
$200,000 Critical Eye Stakes (Race 7, approximate post 4:33 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares, NY-breds, 3YOs & Up, one mile (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Sunny Desert (NY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 117, B N Levine, 4/1
2. Hot Stones (NY), J.R. Velazquez, 121, B N Levine, 10/1
3. Miss Da Point (NY), C.H. Velasquez, 119, J T Toscano, Jr., 12/1
4. Macha (NY), J. Rosario, 119, J Hollendorfer, 6/1
5. La Verdad (NY), J.L. Ortiz, 123, L Rice, 1/1
6. Lady Gracenote (NY), J. Lezcano, 117, J Servis, 15/1
7. Carameaway (NY), R. Maragh, 117, M E Friedman, 20/1
8. Tahoe Tigress (NY), M. Franco, 117, J C Englehart, 12/1
9. Princess Mara (NY), T.B. Rice, 119, P J Quick, 15/1
$125,000 Bouwerie Stakes (Race 3, approximate post 2:24 p.m. EDT), fillies, NY-bred 3YOs, seven furlongs (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. a-Elmra (NY), R. Maragh, 118, M A Hennig, 15/1
1. a-Irish Sweepstakes (NY), J. Lezcano, 118, M A Hennig, 15/1
2. Flipcup (NY), J. Rosario, 120, W I Mott, 5/2
3. Isabelle (NY), A.O. Solis, 116, L L Lewis, 5/1
4. Prairie Stone (NY), M.J. Luzzi, 120, B R Brown, 6/1
5. Henry's Gal (NY), C.H. Velasquez, 122, R R Rodriguez, 3/1
6. Ms. Sylvia A. (NY), L. Mejias, 118, M Nevin, 6/1
7. Storied Lady (NY), J. Castellano, 118, J O Hertler, 10/1
8. Champagne Ruby (NY), T.B. Rice, 118, L Rice, 8/1