June 24, 2024

Blue Prize faces strong sophomore challenge in Breeders’ Cup WAYI Spinster

Blue Prize scored a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) by taking the "Win & You're In" Fleur de Lis Stakes (G2) under jockey Jose Ortiz at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 16, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Keeneland’s Fall Stars Weekend concludes Sunday with a trio of Breeders’ Cup Challenge events, anchored by the $500,000 Spinster (G1) furnishing a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Argentine import Blue Prize, who scored a “Win and You’re In” victory in the Fleur de Lis (G2) earlier this summer, returned from her three-month break to add another laurel in the September 15 Locust Grove (G3). The Churchill Downs aficionado has raced at Keeneland just once, rallying for third in last year’s Spinster in the slop, and enters in sharper form now for Ignacio Correas. But Blue Prize must overcome being drawn on the far outside in post 11, and some significant challenges from three-year-old fillies who’ve been chasing presumptive champion Monomoy Girl.

Pace-dependent Eskimo Kisses finally got her optimal scenario in the Alabama (G1), and the Ken McPeek sophomore capitalized with a breakout 6 1/2-length romp. She’d been knocking on the door. Second to Monomoy Girl in the Ashland (G1) here as well as to Chocolate Martini in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Eskimo Kisses was a troubled fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and fourth again off a slow pace in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). Although she’s cutting back from the Alabama’s 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/8 miles here, an honest tempo would be enough for her.

Talk Veuve to Me served up that stiff pace in the Alabama, where she tired to fourth, but she’s eligible to hold on better at this trip. That was only her second two-turn attempt, following a romp in the Indiana Oaks (G3) for Rodolphe Brisset. Previously, the Violence filly was runner-up to Mia Mischief in the Eight Belles (G2) and to Monomoy Girl in the Acorn (G1).

Skeptic has won three of her past four, the exception being a fourth behind Talk Veuve to Me at Indiana Grand. The Rusty Arnold pupil rebounded in the Monmouth Oaks (G3) over Sassy Sienna, and as a daughter of Tiznow, has every right to be on the upswing as an autumn three-year-old.

The ubiquitous Chad Brown has dispatched Pacific Wind, whose signature win came in the Ruffian (G2) at Belmont back in May. Below form in her last pair in New York, the Curlin filly hopes to right the ship by returning to the scene of her April allowance conquest.

Nearly all of the others have to turn the tables on Blue Prize. Groupie Doll (G3) vixen Champagne Problems was just a nose shy of her in the Locust Grove, while Locust Grove fourth Tiger Moth is a multiple Grade 3 winner. Fuhriously Kissed, seventh in the Fleur de Lis, warmed up with a Thistledown allowance win at Southernperfection’s expense.

The $250,000 Bourbon (G3), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), features Summer (G1) runner-up War of Will. Gary Barber’s blueblood was three-quarters of a length away from winning that Breeders’ Cup Challenge event at Woodbine, only to be denied by the now-sidelined Fog of War. That’s a high level of form for a maiden, and the Mark Casse juvenile could shed that status here. Casse also has Blockbuster, who rallied from far back to capture his Kentucky Downs debut.

Current, third behind Fog of War in their mutual debut at Saratoga, impressed next time out at Belmont for Pletcher. Henley’s Joy outbattled Tracksmith in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile, Ice City Ghost wired the Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs, and Forloveofountry exits a fourth in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf.

Mick’s Star faces a class test after trouncing maiden and second-level allowance foes on the Indiana Grand dirt, but the Tom Amoss pupil is bred to route on turf. Kentucky Downs maiden winner Salvator Mundi is a three-quarter brother to Grade 1 vixen My Conquestadory, More Than A.P. steps up from an Arlington maiden score for Chris Block, and Rusty Arnold’s filly Concrete Rose stretches out from a Spa turf sprint.

The Fog of War form is also represented in the inaugural Indian Summer S., a $200,000 “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. All About It, just nabbed by Fog of War in his lone start at the Spa where Current was third, adds Lasix for this second try at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Wesley Ward’s filly Chelsea Cloisters brings stakes experience on two continents. Runner-up in the Prix du Bois (G3) after an 11th in the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot, she beat all but stablemate Stillwater Cove in the Bolton Landing at Saratoga. Stablemate Abaco Dream takes the class hike in the wake of an off-the-turf maiden romp at Monmouth.

Strike Silver and Nitrous, one-two in a noted Churchill Downs maiden back in June, cross swords again while trying turf for the first time. Both subsequently placed in major stakes at Saratoga, Strike Silver finishing a close second in the Sanford (G3) and Nitrous taking third in the Hopeful (G1).

Credit Swap (cross-entered to the Futurity at Belmont) ran off the screen first up on the Monmouth turf for Mike Stidham, and Minnesota-bred star Mister Banjoman brings high speed into his turf debut.