The trophies were silver, the $2 million purse money green, and the banners a brilliant shade of Breeders' Cup purple. But the only color that mattered in the winner's circle after the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park was blue.
In a thrilling stretch duel that cost undefeated favorite Midnight Bisou a perfect season, Merribelle Stable's Blue Prize took home winning honors and bragging rights when she became only the third Argentine-bred to win the Distaff in the 36-year history of the Breeders' Cup.
"Down the backside, she was going by everybody. … Dreams come true," jockey Joe Bravo said.
After breaking slow from the far outside post, Bravo settled Blue Prize near the back of the pack as Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress sprinted to the lead to set the pace on the rail. Blue Prize still trailed in eighth through the first half-mile, with Midnight Bisou just ahead in seventh under Mike Smith while Serengeti Empress continued to set a fast pace.
Turning for home, it looked briefly as though Serengeti Empress could hold out to wire the field, but her lead begin to slip as both Blue Prize and Midnight Bisou moved up to challenge at the top of the stretch.
Blue Prize got first run and overtook Serengeti Empress with a furlong remaining. Midnight Bisou also closed well, but Blue Prize had plenty left in reserve to hold off that foe in the stretch, winning by 1 ½ lengths with a final time of 1:50.50 for the 1 1/8-mile race.
"The trip was great," Bravo said. "She broke a little slower than I expected, but she was moving up on the backside nice. I looked over and saw Mike Smith kind of asking Midnight Bisou a little soon. Blue Prize was really running her race. When we turned for home, she went on with it."
Even-money favorite Midnight Bisou finished second, 3 ¼ lengths in front of third-place Serengeti Empress. Ollie's Candy took fourth, followed by Dunbar Road, Mo See Cal, Wow Cat, Street Band, Secret Spice, La Force, and Paradise Woods.
Blue Prize, sent off at 8.90-1 odds, returned $19.80 to win on a $2 wager.
"Nothing Midnight Bisou does for us is disappointing," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who has guided the filly through seven graded stakes victories this season. "She had a tremendous amount to overcome with all the dirt she took early. A quality filly bested her and got first run on her around the turn. It took Mike (Smith) quite a bit to get her out it that it just left her too much to do. The filly came back completely covered (in dirt), and she's such a champion that she never gave up. She continued to run, and I'm unbelievably proud of her."
Midnight Bisou's connections announced earlier in the day that the Midnight Lute filly would be withdrawn from Fasig-Tipton's marquee November breeding stock sale next week and would return to race at age 5.
"It would have been nice to have been in the clear and taken a long run at it," Smith said. "I was bottled up. It's hard to do on this track right now. The kickback is awful. I'm covered. She took a lot of it, where the winner was clear and got a good, long run on me. It's just hard to come back and catch them on this track right now. It's safe, which is a good thing. It's the main thing, but it's hard to make up ground. She tried hard. I was proud of her."
The Distaff victory is the final stop on a long road to the World Championships for Blue Prize, a daughter of Pure Prize who finished fourth in last year's renewal to champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl. Blue Prize earned her berth in the Distaff by virtue of her repeat win in the Oct. 6 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.
Paseana, winner of the 1992 Distaff, and Bayakoa – who won back-to-back renewals of the race in 1989-90 – are the only other Argentine-bred mares to win the race.
Blue Prize began her career in her native Argentina. She made four starts in South America before being bought by owners John Moores and Charles Noell’s Merribelle Stable, shipped to the U.S., and transferred to trainer Ignacio Correas IV's barn in 2017.
Blue Prize, who is entered in Fasig-Tipton’s upcoming sale, has a 10-8-3 record from 23 starts and $2,692,253 in earnings.
"She's so unique," said Correas, who was overcome with emotion after the race. "She had been facing champion after champion in the last two months. It's not about my level of satisfaction, it's about the filly. She has beaten Elate and Midnight Bisou in two months. What else do you want to ask of a horse? She's a champion, and all the credit is for her. We have been blessed to have her. It's been a great ride. We have great owners who let us plan and execute. But it's all about this filly."