Pearl of Love Produces Gem in Gran Criterium

Pearl of Love captured Sunday's Gran Criterium (Ity-I) for 2-year-olds, holding off previously unbeaten Spirit of Desert in a gritty half-length victory at Milan's San Siro.

Jockey Darryll Holland placed Pearl of Love forwardly and moved up on the outside of Mister Strong to take command in the run for home. The Mark Johnson-trained colt doggedly held off Spirit of Desert, who was challenging on the inside, over the final furlong for his first group I win. Barbajuan battled on late to get third, three-quarters of a length behind.

The son of Peintre Celebre completed the 1,600 meters on good going in 1:40.10.

Johnson said Pearl of Love's next race would be the 2,000 Guineas.

Moscow Ballet progressed late to finish a non-threatening fifth for trainer Aidan O'Brien.