The only contender with a graded stakes under her belt, the 4-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon came into the 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares off of a convincing 4 1/2-length score in the Oct. 13 Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont.
With John Velazquez aboard, Criminologist proved to be much the best again, winning for the sixth time in nine career turf starts.
A Kentucky homebred for Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable, Criminologist rated four-wide under Velazquez, content to let pacesetters Jade Queen, Candy Ball, and Bicoastal vie for the lead. Jade Queen was going best of all through the backstretch, setting fractions of :25.13, :49.94 and 1:14.14. Criminologist, trained by Shug McGaughey, was fifth after three-quarters.
As they neared the final turn, Criminologist accelerated nicely, taking the lead by two-lengths at the top of the stretch. The main threat came from Argentina, with the 5-year-old Sadler's Wells mare looming boldly by the eighth-pole. But with steady urging from Velazquez, Criminologist had more than enough to hold off her rival. Nottawasaga was another 2 ½ lengths back in third, just in front of 65-1 longshot Mama I’m Home.
The final time was 1:51.06.
"When I asked her, she responded right away,” Velazquez said. “I rode this horse in New York, and she ran very impressively. All of my top horses seem to be retiring now, so I have to look for the future. She has proved me right and run really good, and I am looking forward to next year.”
The 3-2 betting favorite, Criminologist paid $5 to win. Argentina, the second choice, paid $3.20 to place and filled out a modest $12.80 exacta (4-6).
After winning just once in her first six starts on the main track, Criminologist was moved to the grass and has been on fire ever since. Out of the Seeking the Gold mare Search Party, she began her win streak Aug. 9 at Saratoga, taking an allowance by a head. That was followed by a 3 ¼-length score in the Aug. 29 Perfect Sting Stakes, also at Saratoga.
“I thought she would run well," said assistant trainer Pam York, who filled in for McGaughey while he was watching another one of his horses, Hunting, win the Stuyvesant (gr. III) at Aqueduct, also for Janney. "She has trained well and done everything we have asked of her. I thought she would like the cut and the tighter turns (on the turf course). She is a very handy filly. She will go back to New York for a few days and then she will be shipping to Gulfstream.”