Lady Sheila Stable's classy sprinter La Verdad handled an increase in distance and secured her first win going a mile May 31 at Belmont Park, turning back the challenge of Hot Stones to capture the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes on New York Showcase Day (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old daughter of Yes It's True entered the restricted stakes as the 2-5 choice off an April 19 victory against open company in the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack, a six-furlong event she aced by 3 3/4 length to secure her first graded win.
"She's truly a sprinter," trainer Linda Rice said. "It's a little stressful running a filly who is truly a sprinter at a mile, but it was the best option we had. From here on out, I can shorten her up."
Clearly the best of eight older fillies and mares, La Verdad was forwardly placed inside the lead of longshot Princess Mara, who went a quarter in :23.32. Jockey Jose Ortiz then moved the eventual winner up to take over for a :46.14 half. She shook clear heading into the turn and opened a three-length advantage while clocking three-quarters in 1:09.93.
"I knew that (Princess Mara) had speed, so I knew that if she went, I would have to sit behind her because I didn't want my horse to tire early," Ortiz said. "She got a little rank, but on the turn I let her run a little bit, and as soon as she got the lead she relaxed very well. I asked her at the three-sixteenths and she responded very well and she kept going. I think this race may have helped her learn to rate."
Hot Stones, who had an inside stalking trip under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez after briefly losing her footing at the start, shifted out in the lane to put in a determined closing run. But she could not prevail in the final furlong, as La Verdad held sway by half a length.
The winner paid $2.80, $2.30, and $2.10. Hot Stones brought $5.60 and $4.40 at 10-1, while 31-1 shot Lady Gracenote returned $5.80 when checking in six lengths back for the show. She was followed by Tahoe Tigress, Princess Mara, Miss Da Point, Macha, and Carameaway. Sunny Desert scratched.
Now victorious in eight of her 10 career starts for trainer Linda Rice, La Verdad improved her earnings to $546,700. She was bred by Eklektikos Stable out of the Hook and Ladder mare Noble Fire. According to Rice, her future targets include the July 28 Honorable Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course en route to the upstate oval's Aug. 23 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I).
"She's a grade II winner right now. If we can make her a grade I winner, that would be a huge asset for her going forward," the trainer said.
Earlier on the card, William Schettine's Isabelle struck out for the early lead and got it in the $125,000 Bouwerie Stakes, skipping away with a 1 1/2-length victory after a slow start cost favorite Henry's Gal the advantage (VIDEO).
Up sharply from post 3 under Alex Solis, the 3-year-old daughter of Successful Appeal whipped through an opening quarter in :22.21 and a half in :44.75, leaving eight other New York-bred fillies in her wake. The 5-2 second choice struck the turn for home clear by about 1 1/2 lengths while clocking three-quarters in 1:09.03, widened her advantage through the top of the lane, and held safely over 22-1 shot Storied Lady in a final time of 1:22.20 on the fast main track.
"We always thought she was nice; she keeps improving more and more," Solis said. "Today she ran them off their feet. She has a high cruising speed and just did her thing."
Flipcup closed for third, while 19-10 pick Henry's Gal had to settle for fourth. Ms. Sylvia A., Champagne Ruby, Prairie Stone, and Elmra completed the order of finish in the seven-furlong restricted event.
Isabelle returned $7, $4.70, and $3.30. Storied Lady brought $14 and $6.70, while Flipcup brought $2.80.
Isabelle came off her front-running May 9 maiden win for trainer Lisa Lewis, which she aced by 12 1/2 lengths at third asking in the Belmont slop, to secure her first stakes score.
"Even if it's a New York-bred race you still hate going from the maiden ranks to a stake," Lewis said. "It was three weeks back from a big, big effort, so I was definitely concerned about that. The extra furlong, too, and she's so fast I knew it'd be hard to keep her rated.
"The main thing with her is getting her to settle, but she's making everyone look good. Alex (Solis) is great that way. He works with this barn. Nobody has breezed the filly except him. When she's getting all silly, like she does, he doesn't get upset by it. He's like, 'Oh, it's Isabelle.'"
Bred by Bluegrass Farm Partners and Jeffrey Tucker out of the Gold Fever mare Merrill Gold, she was a $100,000 purchase from the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale when consigned by Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services.
The Bouwerie triumph improves the bay filly's record to a duo of wins and a second from four starts, good for earnings of $131,700.