Blue Stripe, who made her first U.S. start in last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, earned a “Win & You’re In” berth to try again this year by capturing the Aug. 6 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar. The Argentine-bred mare, a Group 1 winner in her native country, added a Grade 1 win to her résumé by upsetting favored Shedaresthedevil, last year’s Hirsch winner.
Pozo de Luna, Marcelo Polanco, and Hector Berrios, the same owner-trainer-jockey combination that won the July 24 Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar with Irideo, took the Hirsch with Blue Stripe. Polanco is familiar with Argentine runners from back when he worked for Ron McAnally, his 10 years with McAnally coming during the career of two-time Eclipse Award winner and Hall of Famer Bayakoa.
The 1 1/16-mile Hirsch developed just as Polanco and Berrios drew it up. While Private Mission and Shedaresthedevil went a lively pace on the front end – Private Mission completing the first quarter-mile in :23.18 – Blue Stripe raced easily in third among the field of five.
“The race went exactly as we planned it,” said Berrios. “We wanted to sit behind the speed horses, then go get them late.”
Heading down the backstretch, Private Mission, who defeated Blue Stripe in the June 18 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita Park, had the lead. Private Mission was about 1 ½ lengths ahead of Shedaresthedevil, who had shipped in for the race off a win in the July 2 Fleur de Lis Stakes at Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox.
As the field headed to the second turn, Shedaresthedevil and jockey Florent Geroux challenged Private Mission for the lead. When Shedaresthedevil took over, the race was looking eerily like last year’s edition, when Shedaresthedevil got the lead and scored by 3 ½ lengths in a five-horse field. But last year, she didn’t have to contend with Blue Stripe or 3-year-old Desert Dawn.
Blue Stripe ranged up outside of Shedaresthedevil, edging ahead turning for home. The Argentine mare, the 5.30-1 third betting choice, got clear of the favorite by the eighth pole and went on to score by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:42.97.
“She was running all the way,” said Berrios. “She was running well. When we went past the half-mile (pole), we picked it up. She ran really well. She can run farther, too. I think she wants to run farther.”
3-year-old filly Desert Dawn, this year’s Santa Anita Oaks winner, closed ground three wide under jockey Umberto Rispoli, battling Shedaresthedevil to the wire and nipping the favorite for second by a head. They finished 17 ¼ lengths ahead of fourth-place Soothsay, with pacesetting Private Mission fifth.
“We talked about where she’s going to be because they scratched two horses, and we had to change a little bit,” said Polanco of Blue Stripe. “We had her a little closer than we had before. Lucky everything worked. You know where we’re going: Keeneland.”
This year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff is Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Should Blue Stripe go on to win this year’s Distaff, she would be in good company. Bayakoa won both races in 1990. The others to complete the double were Princess Rooney in 1984, the first year of the Breeders’ Cup; Azeri in 2002; and Zenyatta in 2008.
Blue Stripe is a 5-year-old daughter of Equal Stripes out of the Not For Sale mare Blues for Sale, making her a half-sister to Blue Prize, the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner at Santa Anita.
Blue Prize was also effective at Keeneland, winning the 2018 and 2019 Juddmonte Spinister Stakes there.
Prior to being imported to the U.S., Blue Stripe won four of six races in her native country. She was shuffled back early in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and ran seventh at 53.30-1. Polanco gave her a short break and brought her back for the April 30 Santa Margarita Stakes, where she defeated eight other older fillies and mares. She then came on late in the Santa Maria, missing Private Mission by three-quarters of a length.
Polanco said that Blue Stripe “is blooming every day, and she’s so easy to train, too.”