Merriebelle Stables LLC’s BLUE PRIZE ran down pacesetter Farrell and pulled off for a 1 1/2-length win in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) during the “Downs After Dark” program at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
With jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, Blue Prize saved all the ground in fourth as Farrell led the way through fractions of :23.97, :48.57, 1:12.45 and 1:37.14 while chased by Apologynotaccepted and Awestruck. It was that latter filly who made the first move, ranging up outside Farrell rounding the bend, but she was unable to keep up upon hitting the lane.
Blue Prize, meanwhile, angled off the rail on the turn and swung five wide into the stretch. The Ignacio Correas IV-trained mare collared Farrell in midstretch and pulled away to secure the 1 1/2-length victory in a final time of 1:50.02 for 1 1/8 miles over the fast main track.
The win wasn’t the only thing Blue Prize secured. The Fleur de Lis is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series and awarded the five-year-old chestnut an automatic, all-fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) back under the Twin Spires in November.
Blue Prize paid $6.60 as the 2-1 favorite in the Fleur de Lis. Farrell held second by three lengths over Mopotism, who in turn had 2 1/4 lengths to spare on Awestruck. Completing the order of finish were Song of Spring, 3-1 second choice Valadorna, Fuhriously Kissed, Streamline and Apologynotaccepted.
Blue Prize added the Fleur de Lis to wins in last year’s Falls City Handicap (G2) at Churchill and this season’s Top Flight Invitational Stakes at Aqueduct, as well as a Group 1 victory in her native Argentina in 2016. The Pure Prize mare entered this spot off a half-length second in the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard, and now boasts a 14-5-7-1, $605,233 career record.
Bred by Bioart S. A. in Argentina, Blue Prize is out of the dual Group 2-winning Not For Sale mare Blues For Sale, who is a full sister to multiple Grade 3-placed Cure For Sale.
FLEUR DE LIS HANDICAP QUOTES
Jose Ortiz, jockey Blue Prize, winner
“This horse is very tactical. I let her save ground and when we started asking her to go she just took off. I’m very happy with her effort tonight and I know she’ll do well in the future.”
Ignacio Correas IV, trainer Blue Prize, winner
“This filly absolutely loves it here at Churchill Downs, as do I. It was a great race from her and it sets her up for a good year with the Breeders’ Cup back here in November. She’s improved since we got her form Argentina and I think she’s just getting better.”
Channing Hill, jockey Farrell, second
“This is probably the best race she’s run. I give a lot of credit to the winner. She came and chased me down. I couldn’t believe she got outrun. This filly kicked on and she did everything I asked today – I mean everything. Today was the first day that she put her head down and really tried hard all the way to the wire. I’ve got to give her a lot of credit to the winner. I couldn’t believe she run by me that easy.”
Wayne Catalano, trainer Farrell, second
“She ran a very good race and we’re proud of her. Obviously we all like to win, but she ran good. She went out there and did what she was supposed to do, but just wasn’t quite good enough.”
This was her first really terrific race a mile and an eighth?
“I don’t think the distance is that much of a problem. She can get it. She might like a mile and a sixteenth a little better, but they write the race like that write the race.”