By Joe Bianca
ARCADIA, CA–Making a sustained blitz on the far turn, Merribelle Stable's Blue Prize (Arg) (Pure Prize) and Joe Bravo took command in midstretch and held off a stout late bid from presumptive champion Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) to upset the GI Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff Saturday at Santa Anita.
Called the “best filly I ever trained” by legendary Argentinian conditioner Jorge Mayansky Neer, Blue Prize was a Group 1 winner in her native land, but took six starts to taste victory after being sent to the U.S. in 2017, eventually putting it all together with a dominant score in the GII Falls City H. at Churchill. Notching three more black-type triumphs in her next five starts, she reached a career high in the states when capturing the GI Juddmonte Spinster S. last fall at Keeneland. Winless in her next four outings, including a fourth-place run in last year's Distaff at Churchill, she got back on track in the Summer Colony S. Aug. 18 at Saratoga and defended her title in the Spinster last out Oct. 6 when besting odds-on Elate (Medaglia d'Oro).
Let go as the distant third choice in this attempt at Distaff redemption, the chestnut broke a step slowly from her outermost draw, but found her footing relatively quickly going by the wire for the first time and traveled third-last as the field hit the clubhouse turn with GI Kentucky Oaks victress Serengeti Empress (Alternation) leading the charge. Heading three wide around that bend as Midnight Bisou found a midpack spot along the rail in seventh, Blue Prize tugged slightly at Bravo turning down the backside as the half-mile fraction went up in a swift :46.68 over the tiring track.
Nudged along heading into the far turn, the Ignacio Correas trainee came alive with an eye-catching move and quickly drew within striking distance of the leaders after three-quarters in 1:10.83. Midnight Bisou had yet to uncoil while kept on the inside, and Blue Prize built a four to five-length cushion on the favorite as heads pointed towards home. Picking off the tiring Serengeti Empress past the furlong grounds, Blue Prize looked poised to run away with affairs, only for Midnight Bisou to produce one last potent punch in the center of the track. But it was not to be for the Horse of the Year contender, as Blue Prize kept on finding in deep stretch and drove home a comfortable 1 1/2-length winner under a jubilant Bravo, who earned the first Breeders' Cup success of his decades-long career. Serengeti Empress did well to hold third. The winner, while benefitting from the head start she got on the runner-up, nevertheless covered 22 more feet than her rival, according to Trakus.
“She's so unique,” said Correas. “She was thriving. But it's difficult to say when you have a filly like Midnight Bisou in there. She has beaten Elate and Midnight Bisou in two months, what else do you want to ask of a horse? She's a champion and all the credit is for her. We have been blessed to have her. It's been a great ride. We have great owners who let us plan and execute. But it's all about this filly.”
“The trip was great. She broke a little slower than I expected, but she was moving up on the backside nice,” said Bravo. “I looked over and saw Mike Smith kind of asking Midnight Bisou a little soon. Blue Prize was really running her race. When we turned for home, she went on with it.”
As for the vanquished favorite, trainer Steve Asmussen offered, “Nothing Midnight Bisou does for us is disappointing. She had a tremendous amount to overcome with all the dirt she took early. A quality filly beat her and got first run on her around the turn. It took Mike quite a bit to get her out and it just left her too much to do. The filly came back completely covered [in dirt] and she's such a champion that she never gave up. She continued to run and I'm unbelievably proud of her. She's unbelievable. There is no give-up in her. For her to keep coming under those circumstances is unbelievable because around the turn she looked hopeless. But, she just showed her class. She kept coming.”
“It would have been nice to have been in the clear and taken a long run at it. I was bottled up,” said Smith. “The kickback is awful. I'm covered. She took a lot of it, where the winner was clear and got a good long run on me. It's just hard to come back and catch them on this track right now. It's safe, which is a good thing, it's the main thing, but it's hard to make up ground. Going into the far turn, she had already had enough of that kickback and was struggling a bit. But, she's just got so much class. When I finally got her out she took another big breath and gave it a go. She tried hard. I was proud of her.”
On winning his first Breeders' Cup race, Bravo said, “Inside the last sixteenth of the mile, it was just a dream come true. It really was. It got so for real for me. It was time like stopped, and Ignacio got me my dream … I've been riding for over 30 years. I win a lot of races. This is not a race. That was my World Series. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight.”
Correas, on the significance of Blue Prize, who's scheduled to sell as Hip 98 Tuesday at Fasig-Tipton November, added, “It's been a great ride. Probably be sad to see her go, but they're going to take good care of her. And it's the horse of a lifetime. So I don't know if I'm going to have one like her again, but at least I was blessed to have one. And that, in a trainer's career, is a lot to say.”
Blue Prize is one of 87 stakes winners, 46 graded/group stakes winners and 17 Grade I/Group 1 winners for 21-year-old Pure Prize, a GSW in America who stood at Vinery Stud and shuttled to Argentina before relocating there permanently in 2013 to stand at Haras Carampangue. She is the lone black-type winner out of six foals to race out of Argentinian MGSW Blues for Sale, a full-sister to SW/MGSP Cure for Sale. She has an unraced 3-year-old filly by Orpen in Argentina named Blue Orchid (Arg).
Saturday, Santa Anita
LONGINES BREEDERS' CUP DISTAFF-GI, $1,840,000, Santa Anita, 11-2, 3yo/up, f/m, 1 1/8m, 1:50.50, ft.
1–BLUE PRIZE (ARG), 124, m, 6, by Pure Prize
1st Dam: Blues for Sale (Arg) (MGSW-Arg),
by Not For Sale (Arg)
2nd Dam: Key Cure, by Cure the Blues
3rd Dam: Dancer's Key, by Key to the Mint
O-Merriebelle Stable LLC; B-Bioart S.A. (ARG); T-Ignacio
Correas, IV; J-Joe Bravo. $1,100,000. Lifetime Record: G1SW-
Arg, 23-10-8-3, $2,692,253. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Midnight Bisou, 124, f, 4, by Midnight Lute
1st Dam: Diva Delite, by Repent
2nd Dam: Tour Hostess, by Tour d'Or
3rd Dam: Counsel's Gal, by High Counsel
($19,000 RNA Ylg '16 KEESEP; $80,000 2yo '17 OBSAPR).
O-Bloom Racing Stable, LLC, Madaket Stables LLC & Allen
Racing LLC.; B-Woodford Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY); T-Steven M.
3–Serengeti Empress, 121, f, 3, by Alternation
1st Dam: Havisham, by Bernardini
2nd Dam: Love Dancing (Arg), by Salt Lake
3rd Dam: Le Midi (Arg), by Fitzcarraldo (Arg)
($25,000 Wlg '16 KEENOV; $70,000 Ylg '17 KEESEP). O-Joel
Politi; B-Tri Eques Bloodstock, LLC (KY); T-Thomas M. Amoss.
Margins: 1HF, 3 1/4, 1 1/4. Odds: 8.90, 1.00, 10.40.
Also Ran: Ollie's Candy, Dunbar Road, Mo See Cal, Wow Cat (Chi), Street Band, Secret Spice, La Force (Ger), Paradise Woods.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.