Holiday Disguise nips Highway Star in the Critical Eye Stakes

Monday, May 28th, 2018

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

By Bill Heller

A showdown projected for the fifth running of the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes couldn’t have been any more exciting on New York-bred Showcase Day Monday at Belmont Park: two outstanding horses battling shoulder-to-shoulder the final eighth of a mile. Irad Ortiz Jr. got Lady Sheila Stable’s four-year-old filly Holiday Disguise up in the final strides to win the one-mile stakes by a long nose over Highway Star in 1:36.12.

“I wasn’t sure until they made it official, but the crowd made it seem that she won,” Holiday Disguise’s trainer Linda Rice said. “She has no quit in her. She’s such a good racehorse. I’m thrilled.”

Holiday Disguise was the 2-1 second choice in the field of nine and Highway Star the even-money favorite.

Playinwiththeboys, who was 9-1 under Eric Cancel, finished strongly on the rail for third, a length and a half behind Highway Star while a neck ahead of 29-1 Might Be and Dylan Davis.

Dr. William Wilmot and Dr. Joan Taylor bred Holiday Disguise, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday out of Thin Disguise by Yes It’s True who sold for $220,000 as a yearling at Saratoga. Holiday Disguise’s younger sister, Midnight Disguise, captured the Bouwerie Stakes two races after the Critical Eye Stakes.

Holiday Disguise was dropping off a third in the Grade 3 Vagrancy Stakes on May 12th as the 7-5 favorite. “The last race, Irad her down inside,” Rice told David Grening of the Daily Racing Form. “She wouldn’t relax down there. He thought it was a tactical mistake on his part.”

Bettors made her the second choice Monday, pounding Chester and Mary Broman’s home-bred Highway Star, who was making her first start in New York-bred company since a victory in a division of the New York Stallion Series Nov. 13th, 2016, to even money. The five-year-old mare had been racing in open stakes ever since, and she was also dropping off a brave second by a length in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes in her second start of the year May 6th. Highway Star had won five of her previous six starts at Belmont Park.

NYRA/Susie Raisher

Both Holiday Disguise and Highway Star put on a terrific show, one which developed after a fast half-mile in :44.96 by front-running 11-1 Verdant Pastures and Manny Franco. Highway Star was fourth, a length and a half ahead of Holiday Disguise in fifth.

Then both fillies made their move. Highway Star moved up quickly and Holiday Disguise shadowed that move.

Highway Star took the lead after three-quarters in 1:09.90 but didn’t have time to enjoy it as Holiday Disguise drew even at the eighth-pole.

The two fillies battled head-to-head, dead even until the final 200 yards when Holiday Disguise finally gained the lead.

“I filly I beat is a fighter; she always tries hard,” Ortiz said. “When we got close, I knew my filly would fight, too, so I just kept riding.”

He rode her all the way to the winner’s circle.

Holiday Disguise is now six-for-nine in her brilliant career with one second, one third and earnings of just under $370,000.

Rice said she may point Holiday Disguise to the $500,000 Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 25th as her summer objective. [VIDEO REPLAY]

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