Darley Stable’s homebred Criticism, a three-time graded stakes winner this year, holds a big edge over six contenders as she makes the final start of her career in the $150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT), the Nov. 1 feature at Aqueduct.
A 5-year-old English-bred daughter of Machiavellian, Criticism enters the 1 1/2-mile race off a runner-up effort in the Oct. 3 Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont when losing to Pure Clan by 2 3/4 lengths over soft ground. But Criticism, a Tom Albertrani trainee, has by far the most solid credentials of any Long Island contender; not only did she win this event a year ago but she also has the luxury of being the only entrant to win a graded stakes race in North America.
Criticism, who will carry top weight of 122 pounds for her accomplishments and give six to 10 pounds to her rivals, won the Long Island by a length a year ago to close out her 2008 campaign. The bay mare got off to a hot start in 2009, winning the Very One (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park in February, then after a third-place effort in the Orchid (gr. IIIT) over the same turf course, came back to score consecutive victories in the La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIT) April 25 at Calder and Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) May 23 at Belmont.
Overall, Criticism has posted a solid 8-7-3 record from 21 starts, with earnings of $725,367. She began her career in France before shipping to the U.S at the start of 2008.
“Ever since she came from overseas, she just kept climbing the ladder,” Albertrani said. “She’s had a great season and while she never won a grade I, she came close and we were happy to get her grade I-placed the last time. I hope she can win this race two years in a row."
Javier Castellano will ride the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
Bubbly Jane is a two-time group I winner in her native Brazil, but ran off the-board in her only graded stakes effort in the United States.
Bubbly Jane won four of six starts in Brazil, including the group I Brazilian Oaks in 2008, before being shipped to the states this year. Now a 4-year-old, the dark bay filly made a successful U.S. debut in July at Belmont for trainer Paulo Lobo, winning the nine-furlong Donor Stakes by a nose.
Owned by Haras Interlagos, Bubbly Jane finished fifth in her next start, the grade III Glen Falls Handicap at Saratoga, and then returned to the winner’s circle in the Possible Mate Stakes Oct. 9 at Belmont. John Velazquez will be in the irons.
One filly who could step up to challenge Criticism is Queen of Hearts, a 4-year-old daughter of Thunder Gulch. The James Jerkens trainee won the restricted 10-furlong Signature Stallions Stakes at Saratoga this summer and last out was third in the Flower Bowl, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths by runner-up Criticism.
Jerkens has been pleasantly surprised by the filly’s development. After just two starts as a 3-year-old, she was off for 10 months due to soreness and an ankle filling, and Jerkens thought she might not return at all.
“This winter down in Florida, I thought we might have to retire her,” Jerkens said. “But we put on glue-on shoes and when we came back here she started to come around.”
And if you are willing to take a shot with Queen of Hearts, Lemonette (3-1) must also be considered. A 6-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare, she finished ahead of third-place Queen of Hearts and fifth-place Bubbly Jane when placing runner-up in the Glen Falls. A former European-based runner, Lemonette has won two of eight starts since coming to the U.S last year.
Dance Pass, a stakes winner in Ireland making her first start in the U.S., is listed as the 4-1 third choice on the morning line.
$150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 3:16 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Queen of Hearts (KY), J L Espinoza, 116, J A Jerkens
2. Dance Pass (IRE), R A Dominguez, 112, D K Weld
3. Bubbly Jane (BRZ), J R Velazquez, 116, P H Lobo
4. Tidal Dance (FL), A Garcia, 112, M E Hushion
5. Criticism (GB), J Castellano, 122, T Albertrani
6. Borrowing Base (NY), J Bravo, 114, P J Quick
7. Lemonette (KY), C H Velasquez, 116, E R Reed