The 4-year-old Maria's Mon filly, owned and bred by Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey, made her graded stakes debut in the Athenia. She has won five of her past seven starts, including her last three tries on soft going.
Ridden by John Velazquez for the first time, Criminologist seized the lead after coming wide into the stretch and progressively pulled away under a strong hand ride, completing the 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares in 1:45 on a yielding turf.
“I thought John rode her great,” McGaughey said. “The way she had been training, I knew she was sharp and I thought we would be laying right behind Mott’s horse (Beautiful Daniele). It set up perfect for us. She doesn’t have a real long run. When Johnny asked her, it was over with. I am very pleased with the way she has come along.”
I'm In Love finished up well along the inside under Mike Luzzi to gain second by 1 1/4 lengths over the even-money choice Dance Away Capote, who was ridden by Alan Garcia.
Beautiful Daniele opened an early five-length advantage over her five rivals and carved fractions of :25 1/5, :51 and 1:16 2/5 before fading quickly. Criminologist, never far off the leader after the opening quarter-mile while racing in second, angled out on the far turn for an early bid as Dance Away Capote and Fantastic Shirl also closed in. But Criminologist quickly took command and had no dangers through the stretch run.
“I wasn’t concerned with the lone speed," Velazquez said. "I was more concerned with the horses behind. I just let the speed horse go and waited as late as I could to make a move. When I asked her, she just went. Those are the kind of horses I like.”
Dance Away Capote, the 117-pound high weight coming off a 4 1/2-length win in the Noble Damsel Handicap (gr. IT) for trainer Barclay Tagg at Belmont Sept. 15, chased the pace while racing wide and had no response in the lane. She took third by a neck over Fantastic Shirl, with Mabadi and Beautiful Daniele trailing.
“She didn’t really like this kind of turf,” said Garcia of Dance Away Capote. “She didn’t want to go anywhere. She kept the same pace the whole race, but I know that she is better than that.”
Criminologist, who toted 115, earned $65,460 for her sixth win in 14 lifetime starts. She has banked $285,379 in her career. Criminologist, out of the Seeking the Gold mare Search Party, won the Perfect Sting on the Saratoga turf Aug. 29 by 3 1/4 lengths in her last start.
Sent off as the second choice, the winner paid $6.20, $4.10 and $2.40. I'm In Love, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, returned $8.30 and $3.30. Dance Away Capote was $2.10 to show.