by JOHN MUCCIOLO
A trio of “Win and You’re In” events took place at Keeneland on Sunday. The headliner was the $500,000 Spinster S. (G1) which offered a direct berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). And it was an eventful affair.
Merriebelle Stable’s Blue Prize made a bold move turning for home and looked well on her way to a comfortable victory under Joe Bravo. The chestnut mare was well clear at the midstretch mark, but she bolted to the center of the course inside the final furlong, before getting things right in time to post the three-parts of a length win.
“When she got to about the three-sixteenth pole, she started drifting”, Bravo stated. “I got into her left-handed a few times. I don’t know if it was the stick that caused it. I think she was waiting on competition. Wow, she’s talented.”
The Ignacio Correas trainee concluded nine furlongs in a solid 1:50.02 en route to her first Grade 1 win on U.S. soil, as well as the initial one for her conditioner.
Champagne Problems, who ran Blue Prize to a nose most recently in the Locust Grove (G3) at Churchill Downs, was clear in second for Ian Wilkes. Chad Brown’s Pacific Wind rounded out the trifecta.
Alabama S. (G1) romper Eskimo Kisses was last early and never offered a serious test as the 9-5 favorite.
Blue Prize is a Group 1 heroine in her native Argentina and now shows a trio of graded wins in succession. The Pure Prize five-year-old is out of multiple Group 2 victress Blues For Sale.
Two-year-olds went 1 1/16 miles in the Bourbon S. (G3) on the green, with an all-expenses paid entry to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) awaiting the winner. The thrilling grassy test saw three horses finish nearly in unison, with the decision going to the Todd Pletcher-trained Current.
The chestnut son of Curlin was coming off a fine maiden win and proved to be up to the task in the well-matched field, getting up by a nose on the line with a stout stretch run. Current stopped the teletimer in 1:45.10 over the firm turf to earn his first graded win, as well as his ticket to the ‘Cup beneath Jose Ortiz.
“He was very relaxed the whole time, and that’s the point, get your horse to relax. He kicked home very well,” Ortiz said following the race.
Kentucky Downs Juvenile S. winner Henley’s Joy was a close second, while Kenny McPeek’s Salvator Mundi was another nose back in third. War of Will, the 7-5 favorite, led into the lane with a clear edge and ultimately finished fourth.
Current was bred in the Bluegrass State by Hinkle Farms and attracted a final bid of $725,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The colt is out of the Storm Cat mare Crosswinds and is a half-brother to 2016 Ashland Stakes (G1) queen Weep No More. Current’s second dam is the brilliant Flute, who was a facile winner of the 2001 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Alabama S. (G1).
In the $200,000 Indian Summer S., John Oxley’s Strike Silver displayed a sensational turn of foot in notching his first stakes triumph. The Violence colt has now qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint following the win.
Strike Silver was last after the opening three-eighths and had just one beaten in midstretch, but he unleashed a superb late burst beneath Julien Leparoux to be a neck clear under the line. The 5-1 fourth-choice concluded 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf labeled firm in 1:05.00 for conditioner Mark Casse.
Chelsea Cloisters did everything right but win while second for Wesley Ward. The Group-3 placed daughter of First Samurai was 1 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher, 39-1 outsider Reward the Miracle.
Strike Silver was a debut winner on the dirt at Churchill Downs and finished a neck second in the subsequent Sanford S. (G3) at Saratoga. The $275,000 yearling purchase displayed a new dimension on the lawn after showing pace in both of his races in preparation of today.
He was bred in Kentucky by Lantern Hill Farm and is the first stakes winner produced from the Pulpit mare Frank’s Hope.