by Brian Bohl
Phoenix Thoroughbred III's Dream Tree dueled with Mia Mischief in the stretch before kicking away in the final furlong to stay undefeated in capturing the 71st running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Prioress for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
Dream Tree, for the Hall of Fame tandem of trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, improved to 5-for-5 in her career, registering her third straight graded stakes win after a victory in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes on February 4 at Santa Anita and the Grade 1 Starlet on December 9 at Los Alamitos.
Making her Saratoga debut, Dream Tree stayed nearly even with 9-5 favorite Mia Mischief's through the early fractions, with a quarter-mile going in 22.30 seconds and the half in 44.93. Out of the turn, Mia Mischief kept the edge near the rail, but Smith urged Dream Tree in the final furlong, with the Uncle Mo filly responding to a left-handed whip to clear away to a 4 ¼-length win, completing six furlongs on a fast main track in 1:09.50.
"She gave me goosebumps to be honest. I had never ridden her in the afternoon," said Smith, who teamed with Baffert for their third graded stakes win of the Saratoga meet, joining Marley's Freedom in the Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina and Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. "I was fortunate enough to work her one morning, so I knew she was really talented, but I didn't realize she was this talented.
"You go back and look at some of fillies that she's beat and she's beaten some really, really good fillies, so the only thing that worried me a little bit was the long layoff, but she handled that well within herself. She was sharp out of the gate and she's pretty aggressive in the post parade, she gets herself wound up, but the best part of the race is when the doors open; that's when she relaxes. She has a natural high cruising speed and Bob had her ready today. He told me that's why he decided to ship her."
Dream Tree, who was also 9-5, paid $5.80 on a $2 win bet. She won her fourth consecutive stakes, improving her career bankroll to $527,500.
"Man, she brought it today," Baffert said by phone. "She had been training so well and we were debating on running her here [at Del Mar] in a stake on closing day or take her to Saratoga. She decided to give her a shot since she was doing so well. I'm just glad she shipped well and is still undefeated. That freshening really helped her. She's really matured a lot. She showed today how good she really is. It's pretty exciting.
"She showed last year that she could win going short, going long," he added "She's extremely fast. Turning for home, I thought, 'Man, I think she's ready.' They were going pretty fast. I think Mike was pretty impressed with her. Sometimes it works out and sometimes, it leaves you scratching your head. I'm just really glad it worked out."
Mia Mischief finished second in a graded stakes for the second time this meet. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the Into Mischief filly also ran second, by a neck, to Separationofpowers in the Grade 1 Test on August 4 and came back nearly a month later to outlast Moonshine Memories by a head.
Sower, Cathedral Reader, Purrfect Miss, Classy Act and Win the War completed the order of finish. Bronx Beauty and Dream Pauline were scratched.