Dance Away Capote has two wins from three starts on the grass.

Dance Away Capote has two wins from three starts on the grass.

Skip Dickstein

Criminologist, Dance Away Capote Lead Athenia Field

A field of six is entered for the $100,000 Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park Oct. 13.

Criminologist has four turf victories this year. Dance Away Capote is the lone starter with a graded stakes win to her credit. Those two headline a field of six in the 30th running of the $100,000 Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares Oct. 13 on the Belmont turf.

A 4-year-old filly by Maria's Mon, out of Seeking the Gold mare Search Party, Criminologist has won two consecutive starts, both while sitting just off the pace. The latest score was in the Perfect Sting Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 29, her first stakes victory.

Trained by Shug McGaughey, Criminologist started her first six races on dirt, with only one win. Since switching to the grass, she has won four times and been on the board in five of seven efforts. John Velazquez will ride the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III homebred.

“Once she got comfortable on the grass, she’s really been solid,” McGaughey said. “One of her losses at Gulfstream was my fault because I didn’t do enough with her.”

McGaughey’s main competition could be Dance Away Capote, who is coming off a convincing 4 1/2-length score in the one-mile Noble Damsel Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Sept. 15. The 5-year-old Capote mare came from four lengths back at the half-mile marker to win easily. She will have to go an extra sixteenth of a mile in the Athenia.

Owned by Robert Evans and trained by Barclay Tagg, Dance Away Capote has only tried the turf in her last three starts, two of them victories.  She has won seven of 19 lifetime races. Alan Garcia gets the call.

Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle a pair of fillies in the Athenia, Fantastic Shirl and I’m in Love. A 4-year-old daughter of Fantastic Light-Lady Shirl, Fantastic Shirl is a half-sister to multiple grade I winner Shakespeare. The Dell Ridge Farm homebred was second in the Noble Damsel, but before that won the Aug. 1 De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga from well off the pace.

The turf veteran has won four just of 17 starts, placing in all but three of them. “She was a little bit too far back last time,” McLaughlin said of Fantastic Shirl’s Noble Damsel try. “It wasn’t a rider error. It was just circumstances that we finished second. Dance Away Capote got the jump on us that day and we were always just behind her.”

Eddie Castro will ride for the first time.

I’m in Love won the last time as well for McLaughlin, taking the George Rosenberger Memorial at Delaware Park Sept. 8. It was the second win in seven starts this year for the 4-year-old Zafonic filly.

The speed of the Athenia could come from the outside with Beautiful Daniele. The A.P. Indy filly won her last start in gate-to-wire fashion, taking the Navajo Princes Stakes at Meadowlands by a half-length. An $800,000 purchase in 2004, Beautiful Daniele is trained by Bill Mott and races for Circle E Racing.

Rounding out the field is Mabadi, a 4-year-old who has won twice in seven starts this year. Although unplaced in her last three, the Gary Contessa-trained Mabadi was in graded stakes competition in all of them.

$100,000 Athenia Handicap(gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:12 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. I'm in Love (KY), 115, Michael J. Luzzi
2. Fantastic Shirl (KY), 116, Eddie Castro
3. Dance Away Capote (KY), 117, Alan Garcia
4. Mabadi (KY), 115, Joe Bravo
5. Criminologist (KY), 115, John R. Velazquez
6. Beautiful Daniele (KY), 115, Pablo Fragoso