Merriebelle Stable’s Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) winner Blue Prize (ARG) will return from a three-month layoff to face a field of nine fillies and mares in Saturday’s $100,000 Locust Grove (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The Locust Grove, for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at 1 1/16 miles, is carded as Race 9 on the 11-race program with a scheduled post time of 4:53 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Trained by Ignacio Correas IV, Blue Prize (14-5-7-1—$605,233) won the June 16 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs by 1 ½ lengths prior to taking three months off over the summer. The 5-year-old mare, who has two wins and two runner-up finishes over the Churchill Downs surface, finished second in the 2017 Locust Grove.
“This filly loves it here at Churchill Downs,” Correas said. “She’s just improved since we got her from Argentina and I think she’s getting better.”
By winning the Fleur de Lis, Blue Prize was awarded an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs but was not originally nominated to the race. The ownership group can nominate the 5-year-old mare by the pre entry deadline of Oct. 22.
Julien Leparoux has the call on Blue Prize and will break from post position three.
Among the challengers to Blue Prize is Six Column Stables, Randy Bloch, John Seiler, Fred Merritt and David Hall’s Champagne Problems (18-5-3-4—$261,084). The 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly recently triumphed in the Aug. 12 Groupie Doll (GIII) at Ellis Park by 3 ¼ lengths for her first stakes win.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Champagne Problems will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel and break from post two.
The Locust Grove field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and assigned weight): Streamline (Chris Landeros, Brian Williamson, 123 pounds); Champagne Problems (Borel, Wilkes, 121); Blue Prize (ARG) (Leparoux, Correas, 123); Dutch Parrot (Joe Rocco Jr., Will VanMeter, 121); Pinch Hit (Shaun Bridgmohan, Brad Cox, 121); Mannerly (Corey Lanerie, Brendan Walsh, 121); Tiger Moth (Florent Geroux, Cox, 123); Sailor’s Valentine (Brian Hernandez Jr., Eddie Kenneally, 121); Pacific Pink (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 121).