04/24/2009 12:00AM

Criticism, Astrologie clash again


The 1 1/2-mile La Prevoyante Stakes is traditionally one of the highlights of the final month of the Tropical at Calder meeting. But track management, hopeful of getting the 2009 session off to a fast start, has advanced the Grade 2 stakes to opening weekend, where it will share top billing on Saturday's outstanding card along with the Grade 3 Miami Mile.

The La Prevoyante drew a field of only five older filly and mare turf specialists but features a rematch between Criticism and Astrologie, who finished first and third in the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap on Nov. 1.

Criticism figures to hold the advantage, having started twice since the Long Island while Astrologie has been idle since the pair's previous encounter. Criticism, who rallied to win the 12-furlong Long Island by a length over J'ray, returned from a 3 1/2-month vacation to win the Grade 3 The Very One at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22 but then finished a tiring third as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Orchid four weeks later.

"I was a little disappointed after the Orchid," said trainer Tom Albertrani. "I thought she wound up being a little too close to a strong pace over some pretty soft ground and it might have used her up a little bit for the finish. But she came back fine and is training well leading up to this race, which looks like a pretty good spot for her."

As was the case in The Very One, Criticism should be able to relax on the lead in the La Prevoyante.

"It looks like she can definitely control the pace again and that's fine if that's the way the race unfolds," said Albertrani. "Astrologie is fresh and can certainly come back and put a good effort in. She looks like the horse we have to respect the most here. The key to the race could be the pace."

Astrologie, who finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Criticism in the Long Island, will race on Lasix for the first time in the La Prevoyante while also getting a five-pound weight shift in her favor off the pair's first meeting. A listed winner in France, Astrologie has posted six works at Payson Park since mid-February for trainer Christophe Clement in preparation for her return.

Long Approach, a distant second in The Very One, Icon Project, and longshot Awesome Moment round out the field.

Mile sets up well for Vanquisher

The Miami Mile, which is also carded on the turf, drew a full field of 12, two of whom, Finallylmadeit and Motovato, are cross-entered in an overnight stakes on the main track later in the day.

Vanquisher, fourth in both the Grade 3 Canadian Turf and Appleton stakes in his last two starts, is the starting highweight under 118 pounds for trainer Greg Griffith. Vanquisher completed a three-race win streak by capturing the Tallahassee Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier in the meet.

"There's some speed in this field so I think the race sets up very well for him," said Griffith, who trains Vanquisher for George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable. "The one post is also good because it will allow him to get back and take right to the fence. Of course, any time you have a horse that closes, you need some help up front."

The Miami Mile marks the return of Mambo Meister, who has not started since being beaten a neck by the graded stakes winner Jet Propulsion under high-priced optional claiming conditions at Gulfstream on Jan. 21. Mambo Meister was an impressive allowance winner in his last start over the Calder turf course.

Fearless Eagle is coming off a neck decision in the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs. Like Mambo Meister, he too won his most recent start at Calder, winning an overnight stakes over his home course one year ago.

Other key contenders include recent allowance winners Baron Von Tap, Rogue Victory, and Dream Maestro. Finallymadeit and Motovato are both expected to scratch and run over the main track in the $55,000 Sumter should the Miami Mile go as scheduled on grass.

:: (DRF Plus)