Video: Heavenly Prize Invitational S. (BT)
Jockey Jose Ortiz gave a chilly ride aboard Barry Schwartz's 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker after breaking a step slow in the 1 1/16-mile test, and sent her out to post opening fractions of :24.17 and :48.05 while opening up by about five lengths. He had plenty of horse turning for home through three-quarters in 1:12.82, and Mei Ling never faltered when set down for the drive.
"We broke OK, a step behind, but I sent her out of there and the blinkers helped a lot," Ortiz said of the Todd Pletcher trainee. "She's getting much better."
On a day that saw early speed horses dominate Saturday at Aqueduct, the bay mare finished a mile in 1:38.37 en route to a final time of 1:45.07 on a fast track. Saythreehailmary's edged out a three-horse photo for second, 3 1/4 lengths back of the winner, while Pangburn and Include Betty dead-heated for third.
Off at odds of 7-2, Mei Ling returned $9.60, $5.10, and $3.30. Saythreehailmary's brought $6.60 and $3.60, while Pangburn and Include Betty brought $2.80.
Mei Ling was bred in Kentucky by Mr. & Mrs. Larry D. Williams out of the Seeking the Gold mare Lochinvar's Gold, and was purchased by Schwartz for $500,000 from the Elm Tree Farm consignment to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. She won her first race of the season after a second and a third in listed company at Aqueduct and Laurel Park this year; the Heavenly Prize was also her first win since last summer, when she took the Sept. 7 Lighthouse Stakes at Monmouth Park. Her record now stands at 4-6-4 from 18 starts.