05/23/2009 12:00AM

Criticism holds them off again

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Criticism (right) rolls to a 2 1/4-length victory over Mushka (center) in Saturday's Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Criticism continues to excel at the game of catch-me-if-you-can.

For the third time in her last four starts, Criticism made the lead soon after the start and never gave it back, this time rolling to a 2 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont Park. Mushka, who chased Criticism all the way from second, held the place by a nose over Caprice. Colina Verde, Backseat Rhythm, and Venetian Causeway completed the order of finish. Russian Rosie and Shadiyna scratched.

It was the third victory from four starts this year for Criticism, and her fourth from six races since coming to North America from Europe last year. Criticism won the Sheepshead Bay in similar fashion to how she won the The Very One at Gulfstream in February and the La Prevoyante at Calder in April.

When the gates opened, Criticism dragged jockey Javier Castellano to an uncontested lead, running an opening quarter in 24.92 seconds and a half-mile in 50.52. Mushka, under Ramon Dominguez, tried to come up alongside Criticism after the slow half, but Criticism spurted away to open up a 1 1/2-length lead down the backside.

After Criticism ran a mile in 1:39.37, Mushka made another a bid to creep up outside of her, but Criticism again ran away from her and, with Castellano just waving the whip at her, Criticism covered the 1 3/8 miles in 2:13.96 over firm turf and returned $3.60 to win.

"She's the kind of horse that needs to go the first quarter-mile nice and easy, and after that she does the rest," Castellano said. "She's very competitive. I see down the backside Ramon hook up with me because it was a slow pace. When he hook up with me, my filly took off again."

Criticism, a 5-year-old daughter of Machiavellian owned and bred by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable and trained by Tom Albertrani, has now won 8 of 18 starts overall.

"She gets out there, she sets her own pace, and any time a horse comes near her like Javier said, she just gets really aggressive and doesn't let them get by her," said Albertrani, who won his 12th stakes of the year. "It just works out if there's no one out there that wants the lead - we're happy to be there."

While Criticism could run in next month's Grade 2, $250,000 New York Stakes here on June 27, her major goal is the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 8.