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Icon Project pulls upset in the Muddy New York Stakes

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Marty Wolfson had always wanted to try Star Crown Stable’s Icon Project on the dirt, and Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, he got his chance.

With the $250,000 New York Stakes moved off the turf because of continued wet weather, the 4-year-old bay daughter of Empire Maker rolled to an impressive 13¼-length victory over favored Criticism in the race, shortened to nine furlongs and downgraded to Grade 3 status with the switch to the muddy main track.

Under jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr., Icon Project sat patiently off early fractions of 23.63, 47.41 and 1:11.85 set by the favorite, then moved up willingly to contest the lead on the turn and pulled clear through the stretch to hit the wire in 1:49.38.

“I spoke to Marty (Wolfson, trainer) and he told me how beautiful she trains in the slop down there,” said Valdivia. “She was giving me a great feel all the way around there, very impressive, I let her out a notch and she just did her own thing down the lane. I was very, very impressed with the way she ran.”

Icon Project returned $13.20 for a $2 win bet as she extended her record to three victories in nine starts and her bankroll to $220,965. Having begun her career in France, she made her American debut in February on the turf at Gulfstream Park, then won an allowance before finishing third to Criticism in the Grade 2 LaPrevoyante at Calder.

“She had been training so well up to this race … I told her owner when she first came to this country, she was training so well on dirt I wanted to run her on dirt, but it didn’t turn out that way,” said trainer Marty Wolfson by telephone from Florida. “Now, I’m not sure in which direction we’ll go. We’ll take some time to figure things out and then decide where she’ll go next.”

Criticism, now 4-2-1 in seven stateside starts, was three and one-half lengths in front of Winning Point, who in turn was followed by Borrowing Base and Backseat Rhythm.

“She ran well off her class to be second,” said Tom Albertrani, trainer of the beaten favorite. “I was happy enough with our horse. I was happy to stay in because you have to try. She had trained well on the dirt, over the mud this past week. I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t going to be her best race, but it was probably something we had to try.”

Added jockey Javier Castellano: “She ran her heart out on a track she didn’t like at all.”

Belle Allure, Colina Verde, Dress Rehearsal, Dynaforce, and I Lost My Choo were scratched.


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