After being all alone at the wire in six of her eight grade 1 victories, Heavenly Prize will be all alone among contemporary selections for this year's National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame induction.
In six of her grade 1 wins, Heavenly Prize scored by a margin of six lengths or more. She won the 1993 Frizette Stakes (G1) by seven lengths. In earning an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly in 1994 she rolled to three straight grade 1 scores, taking the Alabama Stakes, the Gazelle Handicap, and the Beldame Handicap by a combined 19 1/2 lengths.
And Heavenly Prize was just getting started. At age 4 she would add four more grade 1s, including an 8 1/2-length score in the John A. Morris Handicap and an 11-length romp in the Go For Wand Stakes.
Her Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was most impressed that she was able to deliver these types of performances for three straight years.
"That was fun to watch," McGaughey said. "I'm probably most proud of her winning grade 1 races as a 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old. It was fun to be able to watch her draw off the way she did; and I'm just proud that she was able to do that at 2, 3, and 4."
Heavenly Prize was elected by a nationwide panel comprised of 166 racing writers, broadcasters, industry officials, and historians. Finalists are required to receive majority approval (at least 50.1%) from the voting panel to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
It is the first time there has been a single contemporary selection since trainer Nick Zito was the lone choice in 2005.
A bay filly bred in Kentucky by owner Ogden Phipps, Heavenly Prize (Seeking the Gold—Oh What a Dance, by Nijinsky II) won her maiden special weight debut by nine lengths Sept. 15 at Belmont Park. But Heavenly Prize wouldn't be the only future Hall of Fame Thoroughbred making her debut that day for Ogden Phipps and McGaughey.
"I had Inside Information entered as a (debut) maiden the same day—they split the race," McGaughey said. "Inside Information won first then Heavenly Prize ran and was more dominant. I promptly nominated her to the Frizette."
Heavenly Prize now will follow 2008 inductee Inside Information into the Hall of Fame.
Besides the grade 1 wins, Heavenly Prize also finished second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) in both 1994 (One Dreamer) and 1995 (Inside Information). She raced once as a 5-year-old, finishing third against males in the Donn Handicap (G1), which was won by Hall of Famer Cigar.
Heavenly Prize retired with a career record of 9-6-3 from 18 starts and earnings of $1,825,940. Throughout her career, she defeated the likes of Hall of Famers Paseana and Sky Beauty, as well as multiple graded stakes winners Lakeway, Halo America, and Classy Mirage, among others. Eight of Heavenly Prize's nine career victories were in grade 1 events.
Heavenly Prize was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for her first eight starts and by Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day for her final 10 races.
The lone contemporary selection from the 10 finalists chosen by the Hall of Fame's nominating committee, Heavenly Prize will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at 10:30 a.m., Friday, Aug. 3 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is open to the public and free to attend.
New inductees in categories selected by separate processes will also be announced soon. The Historic Review Committee choices for the Hall of Fame will be revealed May 9 and the Pillars of the Turf Committee's Hall of Fame selections will be announced May 23.
While her record as a broodmare is not considered in Hall of Fame voting, Heavenly Prize produced seven winners from eight starters, including the multiple grade 1-winning turf standout Good Reward. She is also the dam of grade 2 winner and successful sire Pure Prize. Heavenly Prize also produced stakes winner Cosmic; stakes-placed Distinctively; and Just Reward, whose daughter Persistently upset Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the 2010 Personal Ensign (G1).
Heavenly Prize died in 2013 at the age of 22 at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.