Winning Prize caught pacesetter Regally Ready in the closing stages and repelled the late charge of Tom's Tribute for a comfortable win in the $200,000 Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 1 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
After tracking Regally Ready from second throughout, Winning Prize moved to challenge the leader in midstretch before scooting clear late for a 1 1/2-length triumph under urging from Rafael Bejarano. Tom's Tribute, racing in third throughout, uncoiled a determined bid late and overtook Regally Ready in the dying strides to finish second by a neck
Campaigned by David Heerensperger and Jose Nelson, Winning Prize finished the one-mile trip on firm turf in 1:32.89. A multiple group I winner in his native country, he scored his second win from four North American starts while posting his first U.S. stakes triumph.
Winning Prize entered off a close third-place finish to Silentio in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 29 at Hollywood Park and punched his ticket to the March 8 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) with his Arcadia win.
Bred by De la Pomme, the son of Pure Prize won three group I races in Argentina in 2012 for Nelson: the Joaquin S. de Anchorena, Raul y Raul E. Chevalier, and Gran Criterium, and also finished second in the Dos Mil Guineas. His United States debut for trainer Neil Drysdale last summer at Del Mar was a smashing success as he led all the way with Bejarano in a four-length romp in a one-mile optional claiming race. A fourth in the off-the-turf Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) in October at Keeneland was sandwiched between that and the Citation.
A change in racing strategy unlocked the Arcadia win.
"The last time I rode him at Del Mar, we were on the lead the whole way," Bejarano said, recalling the debut win. "This time, I wanted to try something different because I knew there was some speed in here (Regally Ready).
"I decided to let whatever horse wanted to go to the lead and I would just follow right behind. I just tried to get him relaxed and he did—the whole race. When it came to the stretch, I just let him go. You learn something new everyday. He always liked to be on the lead but you try something new, and it worked."
Last year's Arcadia winner, Suggestive Boy, sidelined 11 months due to a splint injury, raced in fourth and then fifth early but had no finish kick and checked in fifth as the slight 2-1 favorite. He won last year's Kilroe in his previous start and is training toward a repeat bid in the race.
"He just got a little tired today," jockey Joe Talamo said. "He was coming off a long layoff. I was very happy with my position. I was only a length off the winner, so I was happy with that, but the last part of the race they just out-quickened him. So, he was just tired and I think it sets him up for his next race."
Also at 2-1, Winning Prize paid $7.40, $4.60 and $3, Tom's Tribute paid $8 and 5.40 at 8-1 odds. Regally Ready returned $4.20.
Regally's Royal's stablemate Unbridled's Note was fourth in the seven-horse field, followed by Suggestive Boy, Not Jet Lag, and Procurement.
The 50-50 partnership in Winning Prize between Heerensperger and Nelson came together through Drysdale, but Winning Prize will return to Argentina to stand at stud when his racing days are over.
The winning You and I mare Winning Ways is the dam of Winning Prize, who improved his career record to 7-1-1 from 12 starts.