Blue Prize flies high in Top Flight victory
by Brian Bohl & Najja Thompson
Out of The Flames captures Mizdirection
Merriebelle Stable's Blue Prize overtook Frost Wise in deep stretch and outkicked her challenger in the finals jumps to capture the 78th running of the Top Flight Invitational for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Carded as Race 8, the Top Flight was the second of two stakes on the slate, with Out of The Flames winning the inaugural running of the $100,000 Mizdirection in Race 7.
Frost Wise surged to the lead in the route, recording a quarter-mile in 24.05 seconds and the half in 48.35. Under jockey Kendrick Carmouche, Frost Wise held the lead into the final turn. Blue Prize, ridden by Jose Ortiz, closed the distance and took command from the outside in the final furlong and won by a neck, completing the course in 1:51.48.
Blue Prize, an Argentinian-bred graded stakes winner, capitalized on the class drop after making his previous four starts against graded stakes company. The 5-year-old Pure Prize mare, who capped her 2017 campaign with a win in the Grade 2 Fall City Handicap, finished on the board for the seventh time in eight career starts in the United States for trainer Ignacio Correas, IV.
Off at 7-5, Blue Prize paid $4.90 on a $2 win wager. She improved her career earnings to $456,193.
"I broke good and I sat off a little bit like Ignacio told me to do and I tried to follow. That was the plan," Ortiz said. "I let him [Carmouche] go pretty easy because I knew that I probably had the better horse. At the quarter-pole, I was a little concerned, I couldn't pick up my feet and I tried to roll and get closer and I couldn't.
"Finally, past the eighth pole, I could see he was struggling a little bit and my filly kept going," he added. "She never picked it up really, she just keeps steady."
Frost Wise, a New York-bred trained by Michael Dilger, was the runner-up, finishing in the money for the sixth consecutive start.
Verve's Tale, the 4-5 favorite for trainer Barclay Tagg, ran third. Crimson Frost, Miss Inclusive and Just Got Out completed the order of finish.
Qatar Racing's Out of The Flames held off a late charging pack to win her first stakes race in North America in the Mizdirection for 3-year-old fillies on the outer tur course.
The English-bred daughter of Showcasing, who shipped in from Santa Anita Park to make her fourth start of the year for trainer Simon Callaghan, broke from post 7 with Paco Lopez aboard. She closely stalked from second position as I Still Miss You led the field of 10 through swift fractions of 22.20 seconds for the opening quarter-mile with the half in 45.24.
At the quarter-pole, Out of The Flames surpassed I Still Miss You to take the lead. Set down in a full drive at the top of the stretch, she held off a late running contenders Africa, March X Press and a late charging Mentality to secure the victory by a neck at the wire.
Her final time for the six-furlong distance was 1:08.50.
"She's a nice filly," said Lopez. "They told me that she's good but sometimes she doesn't want the lead. But if you sit from behind, she can be very good. She waited a little bit and when I asked her to run and she got a little pressure, she ran good. In the [stretch], she fought."
Returning $8.40 for a $2 win bet, the victory boosted her career earnings to $172,091, and was her second consecutive following an optional claiming victory on March 30 at Santa Anita.
Following Africa in second was March X Press, Mentality, Golden Days, She's All Skeet, Jehozacat, Raucous, I Still Miss You and Gibby. Nootka Sound was scratched from the race.