Updated on 09/15/2011 1:28PM

Critical Eye steals the show

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NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Critical Eye catches Jostle by a neck in the Grade 1 Hempstead at Belmont on Saturday. Beautiful Pleasure set the pace, but faded to last in the stretch.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Beautiful Pleasure said their former champion needed a race. She may need more than one.

Looking like a heavyweight fighter trying one last comeback, a heavier, slower Beautiful Pleasure gave way after leading for six furlongs of Saturday's Grade 1 Hempstead Handicap and finished last. She was seven lengths behind Critical Eye, who caught Jostle by a neck in the shadow of the wire.

Apple of Kent, the Shuvee winner, finished three-quarters of a length back in third. Serra Lake, Darling My Darling, and Crescent Coast were next.

Beautiful Pleasure, the champion mare of 1999, was making her first start since finishing sixth in last November's Breeders' Cup Distaff.

She was carrying significantly more weight than last year, and jockey Jorge Chavez said she was anxious in the gate.

Beautiful Pleasure flashed her trademark speed, opening up a 1

1/2-length advantage in splits of 23.37 seconds and 46.16 while racing in the seven path. Coming into the stretch, she drifted out more than usual and never put up a fight as the others passed her.

Jostle, who had been sitting just off the pace, made the lead at the eighth pole under Jerry Bailey, but couldn't hold off Critical Eye, who rallied stoutly in the final furlong under Mike Luzzi.

Trainer Scott Schwartz almost passed this race with Critical Eye in order to run in next Saturday's $300,000 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park because it carried a larger purse and a weaker field. But, he liked the way the Hempstead was shaping up with speed horses Beautiful Pleasure, Crescent Coast, and Jostle in the field, and Critical Eye had won two graded stakes at Belmont including last fall's Grade 1 Gazelle.

"As long as there's a pace it makes it a fair race," said Schwartz, who trains Critical Eye for his father Herbert and mother Carol. "If there's no pace there's just no shot of catching anybody."

Critical Eye was last early, then moved up to fifth outside of Serra Lake down the backside. Around the turn, she dropped back to last again and Luzzi had to really get after Critical Eye to get her moving. She responded in midstretch and was able to wear down Jostle. Critical Eye, a New York-bred daughter of Dynaformer, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.18 and returned $24.40 to win.

"There was about a sixteenth of a mile of concern where I didn't think she was going to start picking it up," Luzzi said. "I had to get after her to get into that groove and once she did she kept doing it."

Donna Ward, who oversees the training of Beautiful Pleasure for her husband, trainer John Ward, said, "She needed the race, she was blowing.

I just want her to come out of it safe and sound. She's been hard to get the weight off of, she's older, the works are too easy for her, and you got to run."

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