LEXINGTON, KY – Merriebelle Stable’s Blue Prize ran erratically in the stretch but managed to hold on late for her third straight score in Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.
The Spinster is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Blue Prize receiving her second automatic berth in the Longines Distaff at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3. She had previously qualified for the Longines Distaff following her triumph in June’s Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Breaking cleanly from the far outside post 11 under Joe Bravo at 9/2 odds, Blue Prize sat off the pace in mid-pack early while Southernperfection raced out to post fractions of :23.79, :47.62, and 1:12.27. Running three-wide through the far turn, Blue Prize collared the leader as they neared the top of the stretch, then took command as she straightened for home, full of run. Crossing over toward the rail as she began to clear off under Bravo’s urging, Blue Prize shied away sharply from his left-handed whip and darted outward several lengths into the middle of the track before being steadied. Once she recovered, Bravo roused her once more under a vigorous hand ride and the pair were somehow able to still finish on top by 3/4 of a length over familiar foe Champagne Problems. The final time for the 9-furlong event over the fast main track was 1:50.02 for the mare trained by Ignacio Correas, IV.
“When she got to about the 3/16 pole, she started drifting,” Bravo said. “I got into her left-handed a few times. I don’t know if it was the stick that caused it. She kind of went in before I used the stick. I think she was waiting on competition. She kinda did it with control. Wow, she’s talented.”
Once again finding herself finishing behind Blue Prize, Champagne Problems was 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Pacific Wind at the wire. Fuhriously Kissed beat Chocolate Martini for fourth by 3/4 of a length, while Talk Veuve to Me faded in the stretch after running three-wide around both turns. The 9/5 favorite Eskimo Kisses failed to fire from the rear and finished a disappointing seventh by a 1/2-length over Skeptic, who nosed out eighth over Southernperfection. Tiger Moth and Sassy Sienna completed the order of finish.
Blue Prize’s win was her third straight following similar scores in the Fleur de Lis and the Grade 3 Locust Grove Stakes and improved her overall record to 16-7-7-1, with her lone off-the-board finish coming in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park to kick off her 2018 season. The Argentinian-bred 5-year-old daughter of Pure Prize sits just shy of breaking the seven-digit marker in earnings, having amassed $964,753 to date.
“(Blue Prize has) matured and gotten more experience in America,” said Correas, IV, a former South American trainer who won his first career Grade 1 today. “She’s a phenomenal mare. I love (Blue Prize) and Dona Bruja and Kasaqui (all Argentinian mares in his barn)-. They have built me.”
Blue Prize returned $11 to win, $5 to place, and $3.80 to show. Champagne Problems brought back $7.80 to place and $5.20 to show, while Pacific Wind paid $5.20 to show.