Argentinian import Winning Prize streaked gate-to-wire in the $350,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park March 8, holding off recent Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) winner Lochte to secure his first grade I score in the U.S. by half a length (VIDEO).
Trained by Neil Drysdale for David Heerensperger and Jose Nelson, the 5-year-old son of Pure Prize came to the Kilroe off a victory in the Feb. 1 Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT). He continued his success with jockey Corey Nakatani in a final time of 1:32.44 on firm turf under a 118-pound impost.
"I talked it over with Neil and wherever he was comfortable was where I was going to sit him," Nakatani said. "He broke alertly and was in hand the whole way; he's a really nice horse."
Winning Prize went a quarter in :23.17 and an easy half in :46.47, got three-quarters in 1:09.31 under a little pressure from Tom's Tribute, and headed home after seven-eighths in 1:20.72.
"I know this horse didn't have to be on the lead, but today, it was coming easy to him, and I wasn't going to take it away," Nakatani said. "Whatever he was comfortable with, we were going to do. We were getting a little bit of pressure, but I was able to get him relaxed. He had his ears pricked, and it was just nice and comfortable. He likes that high cruising speed, and we let him do the running, and he showed he was the best one today."
Off at odds of 7-2, Winning Prize paid $9.60, $5, and $3.60. Lochte brought $9.20 and $6.20, while 2013 Kilroe Mile winner Suggestive Boy brought $6.80 in third. Za Approval, favored at 9-5, finished fourth as Silentio, Lakerville, Tom's Tribute, Regally Ready, and Optimizer completed the order of finish. Horizontalyspeakin scratched.
Christophe Louriel, assistant to Christophe Clement, said Za Approval faced a tall task in his first start since a runner-up finish in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) behind two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
"I thought he might have tired a little bit; when you looked at the fractions, they were pretty decent," Louriel said. "We're disappointed, but I think he might have needed a race."
Meanwhile, trainer Marcus Vitali was pleased with Lochte, 123-pound highweight in the field of nine. Last time out, the Crossed Sabres Farm runner upset the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) at odds of 39-1.
"I thought we had him tuned up for the flat mile...The fence opened up a little bit and he made his big run," Vitali said. "(Winning Prize) seemed to be a little bit better today, but overall, I'm pleased with everything. We shipped from Florida about eight days ago. I got here two days ago and watched him train yesterday. Everything seemed on target and I'm very pleased."
Speaking of targets, as far as the Kilroe MIle winner is concerned, the June 14 Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) is a likely eventual goal mentioned by his connections.
Winning Prize was bred by De La Pomme out of the You and I mare Winning Ways, and has collected earnings of $610,840 in 13 starts with a 8-1-1 record. He was the winner of three grade I events in his native country and won his North American debut at Del Mar in August 2013, but did not break through in stakes company until this season with his Arcadia win.
Last year after winning at Del Mar, Winning Prize was fourth in an off-the-turf edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) run on Polytrack at Keeneland, and third in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park.
"That horse is just quality," Drysdale said of Winning Prize. "It makes a big difference when you can get away with an easy first half mile. That set us up well. He quickened well in the stretch. He's changed and relaxes in his races. He's becoming more adaptable the more we race him."