Merriebelle Stable's Blue Prize stole the show in the final moments of Aqueduct Racetrack's Top Flight Invitational Stakes April 15, taking the lead in the final strides to score over frontrunning Frost Wise by a neck.
Frost Wise led from the start in the 1 1/8-mile race for older fillies and mares, setting fractions of :24.05, :48.55, 1:12.79, and 1:38.20 through the first mile. Turning for home with a two-length lead over Blue Prize, who had raced in second throughout, it seemed as though the daughter of Frost Giant would go wire to wire. With jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, 5-year-old Blue Prize gave one final drive mid-stretch to close the gap. She just got by the leader to finish in front at the wire.
"I let (Kendrick Carmouche aboard Frost Wise) go pretty easy because I knew that I probably had the better horse," Ortiz said. "At the quarter pole, I was a little concerned. I couldn't pick up my feet, and I tried to roll and get closer and I couldn't. Finally, past the eighth pole, I could see he was struggling a little bit, and my filly kept going. She never picked it up, really, she just keeps steady."
Final time for the distance was 1:51.48 over a fast track. The 4-5 favorite Verve's Tale got up for third, 11 1/4 lengths in front of Crimson Frost. Miss Inclusive and Just Got Out completed the order of finish.
Argentine-bred Blue Prize is a daughter of Pure Prize, out of the Argentinean group 2-winning mare Blues for Sale. After breaking her maiden in her first outing in her native country, Blue Prize finished second in group 2 and group 1 races before winning the Seleccion (G1) in October of 2016.
Upon arriving in North America in 2017, Blue Prize finished second in her next four starts, including the Aug. 20 Summer Colony Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and the Sept. 16 Locust Grove Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. Third in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) on a sloppy (sealed) track at Keeneland, she followed that effort with a win in the Falls City Handicap (G2). In her 2018 debut March 17, she finished seventh in the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park before making the trip to Aqueduct.
"I know the filly," Ortiz said. "I beat her with (Verve's Tale) at Saratoga (in the Summer Colony), so I kind of knew her a little bit, and then I worked her at Keeneland and she worked really well."
In the $100,000 Mizdirection Stakes for 3-year-old fillies one race prior, British-bred Out Of the Flames added a second straight score and first black-type victory to her North American record.
"She's a nice filly," Lopez said. "They told me that she's good, but sometimes she doesn't want the lead. But if you sit from behind, she can be very good. She waited a little bit, and when I asked her to run and she got a little pressure, she ran good. In the (stretch), she fought."
Trained by Simon Callaghan for Qatar Racing, Out Of the Flames began her racing career in England and made her North American debut in the Qatar Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes in November at Del Mar, where the daughter of Showcasing finished third. She finished second in her 2018 debut at Santa Anita Park and followed that with a third in the Sweet Life Stakes, before winning a March 30 allowance optional-claiming race at the Southern California track.