ELMONT, N.Y. -- Criticism is the horse to beat Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 New York Stakes for fillies and mares on the rain-softened grass at Belmont Park.
The weekend forecast offers a glimmer of hope: possible respite from the siege of relentlessly wet weather in the New York area.
But the damage has already been done. The course will be soft for the New York. Just how soft, and how much the footing might compromise Criticism, is the key to the 1 1/4-mile race.
Criticism has been a model of consistency since the Darley Stable homebred joined Tom Albertrani's barn last year. After starting her career in Europe, the 5-year-old has 4 wins in 6 starts -- all graded stakes -- since the transition.
"She hasn't run a bad race since she's been here," Albertrani said. "She's an absolute pleasure to have in the barn."
Criticism will be looking for a third straight Grade 2 victory, following triumphs in the La Prevoyante at Calder and the Sheepshead Bay at Belmont.
Both victories came on firm courses. Her only loss in the last five races was a third in the Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream Park - on a course rated good.
"I don't know if it was the soft ground that got her beat that day or the fact it was a strangely run race," Albertrani said.
Criticism is no stranger to soft courses, having encountered several in France. "I really don't think it will make a difference to her," Albertrani said. "I don't think the ground will be an issue."
Nor should it compromise Dynaforce, winner of the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational here last September on a yielding course.
She has run once this year, finishing fifth in the Gallorette at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard.
"I think it should have really helped," trainer Bill Mott said. "She was pretty rank in that race, having been away. She'll be better."
Dynaforce, second by a neck in the New York last year, will be joined by stablemate Dress Rehearsal, who beat Criticism in the Orchid. They race uncoupled. Backseat Rhythm, Colina Verde, and Belle Allure complete the roster of expected runners.
Icon Project and I Lost My Choo also were entered in the All Along Stakes on Saturday at Colonial Downs. Borrowing Base and Winning Point run only if the race is switched to the main track.
- additional reporting by David Grening