10/29/2009 11:00PM

Criticism hoping for grand finale

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Criticism recorded her first major stakes victory in the 2008 Long Island Handicap. Her connections hope she records her last major stakes victory in the 53rd running of the Long Island on Sunday at Aqueduct.

The Long Island, carded at 1 1/2 miles, is slated to be the final career start for Criticism before she is sent to the breeding shed by owner Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

With graded stakes wins at Gulfstream, Calder, and Belmont in the first five months of the year, Criticism established herself among the leaders in the filly and mare turf division. But the second half of the year did not go quite as well. The New York Stakes was taken off the turf, and she finished a well-beaten second to Icon Project. Then came a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Diana, a race for which she arrived at Saratoga only a few days prior.

"She didn't settle in well enough, she was agitated and nervous, and she really washed out in the paddock," said Tom Albertrani, the trainer of Criticism. "Maybe she was trying to tell us something."

Albertrani gave Criticism a break, and she returned with a solid second to Pure Clan in the Flower Bowl, run over a bog of a turf course at Belmont.

"We freshened her up, and it paid for itself in the Flower Bowl," Albertrani said. "Hopefully, she comes back and repeats that same performance. She came out of the race pretty good and has been training forwardly."

Queen of Hearts and Bubbly Jane are the major threats to Criticism. Queen of Hearts, who won an overnight stakes at 1 1/2 miles at Saratoga, finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Criticism in the Flower Bowl.

"We were thrilled, especially in the middle of the turn, it looked like she was backing out of there," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "Then she found some more, I don't know how."

Bubbly Jane was a Group 1 winner in Chile and has gone 2 for 3 at Belmont. However, she finished fifth, beaten three lengths, in the Grade 3 Glens Falls at Saratoga. Trainer Paulo Lobo has some concern going in about Aqueduct's tighter-turned course.

"The racetracks in South America are more like Belmont Park," Lobo said. "Maybe that's what happened in Saratoga. She was a little confused. But having raced in Saratoga, she has more experience now."

Dance Pass, Tidal Dance, Borrowing Base, and Lemonette complete the field.