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LOUISVILLE, KY – By the slimmest of margins, Merriebelle Stable’s Blue Prize defeated Champagne Problems following a very game duel between the two females in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from post 3 under Julien Leparoux as the 4/5 favorite, Blue Prize applied consistent pressure to early leader Streamline through opening fractions of :24.53 and :48.96 before taking command herself in the far turn. Angling off the rail as she completed the turn for home, Blue Prize was met by Champagne Problems, and together, the two battled noses apart the length of the stretch. In the end, it was the Ignacio Correas IV trainee who poked hers ahead at the right time, taking the 1 1/16-mile main track event in 1:43.69.
“This was the first time I’ve been on this horse in the afternoon, but she was relaxed and moving very easily the entire time,” Leparoux said. “I breezed her about a month ago at Keeneland. She’s a very classy horse.”
Mannerly took third but was nowhere close to the top pair, crossing 6 1/4 lengths behind them. Tiger Moth took fourth ahead of Sailor’s Valentine, who nosed out Pacific Pink for fifth. Streamline weakened to seventh ahead of only Dutch Parrot and Pinch Hit, who completed the order of finish.
Blue Prize’s win was her second straight following a victory here in June’s Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap and third straight at Churchill Downs. The Argentinian-bred 5-year-old daughter of Pure Prize improved her record to 15-6-7-1 and increased her lifetime earnings to $664,753.
“She’s not used to running up close to the pace as she did today,” said Correas IV. “There really wasn’t that much pace in the race, but we know one thing is for sure – she loves this track. She’s done so well in all of her starts here and it’s great the Breeders’ Cup is here. We’re going and we’re excited.”
Blue Prize returned $3.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Champagne Problems brought back $3.40 to place and $2.80 to show, while Mannerly paid $5.80 to show.
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