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Criticism has tightener under belt
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Tom Albertrani had very little to be critical of when Criticism finished a hard-charging second to Sunshine for Life in the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap at Belmont three weeks ago.
After all, Criticism was making her first start in 10 months, running at a distance shorter than she prefers, and attempting to chase down a longshot winner who got loose on an uncontested lead.
Saturday, Albertrani hopes that experience moves Criticism forward just enough to where she can win the Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct. The Long Island is run at 1 1/2 miles, a distance Albertrani feels will be more to Criticism's liking.
"She ran very well coming off a long layoff," Albertrani said Wednesday outside his Belmont Park barn office. "I was actually quite pleased to see her finish up so well in a race going a mile and a sixteenth. She's going to be more suited for a mile and a quarter plus."
Criticism, owned and bred by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Darley Stable, is a 4-year-old daughter of Machiavellian out of the multiple graded stakes winner Innuendo. In Europe, Criticism won 4 of 12 starts, including two against males. Albertrani has had her in his care since the spring, but the filly had a few setbacks and was delayed making it to the races.
"We just didn't have an opportunity to run her sooner," Albertrani said. "A couple of races didn't fill earlier - we went into the Athenia. We knew it was going to be a little short for her. It was a good start for her to come back in. Hopefully, it'll set her up for the Long Island."
Albertrani also plans to run Sentimental Union in the Long Island. Sentimental Union won a maiden race over this course on Nov. 1, 2007, but has languished in the entry-level allowance condition since. Her best races in that condition have come in longer races, including a second-place finish behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Backseat Rhythm.
"I think she'll run well in here," Albertrani said. "I know she's outclassed a little bit, but she's run some solid figures."
Others expected for the Long Island are J'ray, Hostess, Marzelline, Sunshine for Life, Astrologie, La Hernanda, and Shake the Moon.
Two for the Tempted as well
Albertrani also will take two shots at Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Tempted for juvenile fillies with Gemswick Park and Morning Chatter.
Gemswick Park, a daughter of Speightstown, was a sharp maiden winner in an off-the-turf race at Belmont on Sept. 14 before finishing third behind Sky Diva in the Grade 1 Frizette. In the Frizette, Gemswick Park set rapid early fractions before weakening in upper stretch. She was ridden by Chris DeCarlo that day, who was subbing for an injured John Velazquez. Velazquez is scheduled to be back aboard Sunday.
"Chris wasn't familiar with her. She came out a little too much on the bridle that day," Albertrani said. "Johnny's going to be back on her, and he's got a good idea what to expect from her."
Albertrani also plans to run Morning Chatter, who finished second, beaten just three-quarters of a length, in her only career start.
"She acts like a nice filly that's got some talent," Albertrani said. "Her last race gave me every indication she could be running at this level. Hopefully, we can get a little stakes-placed with her. We can always drop her back into the maiden ranks later on."
Others expected in the Tempted, run at one mile, are Livin Lovin, Obsequious, Pull Dancer, and either Coffee in Bed or Fools in Love.
Also on Sunday is the Grade 3, $100,000 Nashua for juvenile colts and geldings. Expected to run in the one-mile race are Break Water Edison, Forty Thieves, Friesan Fire, Gone Astray, Hello Broadway, Prince Charming, Riprap, Royal Vindication, Take the Points, and Viscount.
Tin Cup Chalice scratches, Storm Play rolls
Storm Play ($3) took advantage of being the only speed in the field as he cruised to a 6 1/4-length victory n the $63,750 Best of Luck Stakes, before an opening-day crowd of 1,842 at Aqueduct. Web Gem finished second, 6 3/4 lengths ahead of National Pride. Famous Patriot was last.
Storm Play, a son of Smart Strike, improved to 3 for 3 for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and owner Edward Evans. Under John Velazquez, Storm Play carved out fractions of 24.26 seconds, 48.62, 1:12.10, and 1:36.74, and covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.85 over a muddy main track. He will most likely run back in the Grade 3, $100,000 Discovery here on Nov. 22.
Storm Play became the lone speed in the field when Tin Cup Chalice scratched because of a bruised left front foot. Michael Lecesse, the trainer and part-owner of Tin Cup Chalice, said Wednesday it was too soon to tell how long the horse will be out of action. Lecesse said if the injury heals quickly, he may run him back in the $125,000 Mountaineer Mile on Nov. 8.
Newcomers join jockey ranks
A handful of new faces have already arrived in the jockeys' room and there will most assuredly be more on the way.
The first to make her presence felt was Maylan Studart, a 19-year-old apprentice from Brazil, who upset Wednesday's seventh race aboard Decorated Court ($104.50). Studart, a seven-pound apprentice, began riding in the United States over the summer at Calder, where she won 10 races. She is represented by Joe Ceraulo.
Reed Saldana, a seven-pound apprentice who rode out west, is scheduled to have his first mount here on Friday in the first. Saldana has won 31 races, 11 of his wins coming at Yavapai Downs in Arizona. He is being represented by Barry Brown, a veteran agent who has returned to the game after nearly a decade away.
Victor Lebron, the fifth-leading rider in the country in wins (247), went 0 for 3 Wednesday in his Aqueduct debut. Lebron, the fourth-leading rider at Hoosier Park, is being represented by Chuck Delpreto.
Jerkens out of intensive care
Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who underwent heart surgery last week, had a pacemaker inserted into his chest on Tuesday, according to his son, trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
Allen Jerkens has been moved from the intensive care unit to a regular room and could be released from Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y, as early as Monday, Jimmy Jerkens said.