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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Blue Prize survives late scare to land first Grade 1 in North America

Blue Prize: first success Grade 1 success in North America in the Spinster Stakes
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Report: USA, Sunday
Keeneland: Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (Grade 1) | 1m1f, 3yo+ f+m (dirt)

Trainer Ignacio Correas warned jockey Joe Bravo that in order to get the best out of Blue Prize it would help if the five-year-old daughter of Pure Prize had something to incite her work ethic.

The Argentine-bred mare thrives the more she is pushed, racing exclusively in stakes company since August 2017 while finishing worse than third just once. Her talent has threatened top-level company in the US since her arrival last summer, but if she had a chink it was her tendency to want to make life more challenging if she gained her advantages too easily.

Coming off the turn of the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes, Blue Prize surged to the front and was striding away in a manner that was threatening to turn the race into a clear exhibition. That's when Bravo said his equine partner decided to inject some drama into her situation, ducking out erratically into the centre of the track and giving all those waiting to celebrate her first Grade 1 win in North America a taste of what cardiac arrest feels like.

"She was lonely," Bravo said of his adventure-filled ride in the stretch. "She got out there, she had tons of horse, and Ignacio warned me before the race to make sure to keep her attention. He never told me this would happen. But she knew what she was doing."

Try as she might, Blue Prize couldn't get her own way enough to halt what has been a near textbook march of progression this year. Despite ducking out repeatedly in the closing stages, the chestnut mare got herself together enough to prevail in the Spinster Stakes by three-quarters of a length over a fast-closing Champagne Problems.

"I told Joe to be careful because once she gets on the lead and we have a long way to go, she might get bored," said a relieved and jubilant Correas. "I mean it caught me by surprise, too. Thank God, it was a happy ending, everything finished well."

Blue Prize: drifts to the centre of the track on the way to victory in the Spinster Stakes
Harnessing Blue Prize's love of a good fight has more often than not yielded thrilling returns for Correas and owner Merriebelle Stable.

"It's very special, she's a very special horse," Correas said. "The people who gave the filly to me … they trusted me with this filly who was a very expensive filly in my country. And at the time they gave me this filly, I don't know if everyone would trust a trainer that had like 25-30 horses at the time.

"I have to be very thankful and very grateful to Merriebelle that they gave me the opportunity of training her."

Also on Sunday

USA: Belmont Park
Flower Bowl Stakes (Grade 1) | 1m2f, 3yo+ f+m

Chad Brown’s Fourstar Crook justified favouritism to score at the top level for the first time in the Flower Bowl Stakes, a ‘win and you’re in’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

The consistent six-year-old defeated stablemate Onthemoonagain by two lengths under Irad Ortiz jnr.

Fourstar Crook boosted Brown’s recent record in the $500,000 race to three wins in the last four years.

USA: Belmont Park
Frizette Stakes (Grade 1) | 1m, f (dirt)

Jaywalk earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with victory in the $400,000 Frizette Stakes for trainer John Servis.

Joel Rosario’s mount made all, stretching clear in the home straight to score by five and three-quarter lengths from Brucia La Terra.

Odds-on favourite Covfefe was outpaced with two furlongs to run but kept on to finish a distant fourth.

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Ignacio warned me before the race to make sure to keep her attention. He never told me this would happen
E.W. Terms
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