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Heavenly Prize

heavenly prize alabama winning 1994 alabama mike smith up (NYRA photo)web.jpg

Heavenly Prize winning the 1994 Alabama Stakes, Mike Smith up (NYRA)
Heavenly Prize
Induction Year: 
2018
Foaled: 
1991
Breeder: 
Ogden Phipps
Owner: 
Ogden Phipps
Trainer: 
Claude R. "Shug" McGaughey III
Sire: 
Seeking the Gold
Dam: 
Oh What a Dance
Damsire: 
Nijinsky II
Career Years: 
1993-1996
Starts: 
18
First: 
9
Second: 
6
Third: 
3
Earnings: 
$1,825,940.00

Tab Wrapper

Bio

Heavenly Prize announced her presence with authority as a 2-year-old, dominated her division as a sophomore Eclipse Award winner and maintained her excellent form in her third year on the track.

 

Bred and owned by Ogden Phipps, Heavenly Prize was a bay daughter of Grade 1 winner Seeking the Gold out of the unraced Nijinsky II mare Oh What a Dance. Trained by future Hall of Fame conditioner Claude R. “Shug” McGaughey III, Heavenly Prize made her debut on Sept. 15, 1993 in a six-furlong maiden special weight event at Belmont Park. With future Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith in the irons, Heavenly Prize broke her maiden with ease, trouncing her seven opponents by 9½ lengths. McGaughey knew he had something special and entered Heavenly Prize in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont a month later.

 

“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.”

 

As was the case in Heavenly Prize’s debut, the field got a good look at the precocious filly’s backside as she romped by seven lengths in the Frizette. Heavenly Prize then traveled to California for the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita but finished third to Eclipse Award winner Phone Chatter.

 

Heavenly Prize began her 3-year-old campaign with consecutive placings in the What a Summer Stakes at Gulfstream and the Prioress at Belmont. She then finished third in the Test at Saratoga before finding her top form in a trio of brilliant performances.

 

In the Alabama Stakes, Heavenly Prize drew off from heavy favorite Lakeway to win by seven lengths. The victory was regarded as a shocker, as Heavenly Prize had not visited the winner’s circle in 10 months and the California invader Lakeway was the 1-5 favorite with only a head loss on a sloppy track in the Kentucky Oaks in seven career starts. Prior to the race, Lakeway’s trainer, Hall of Famer Gary Jones said his horse looked like “the best filly to come along since Ruffian.”

 

“After we ran by Lakeway, I took a look back under my shoulder and I was clear,” Smith said, according to the New York Times.

 

It was that easy. Heavenly Prize’s Alabama victory was so devastating that it was another 11 lengths back from Lakeway to the third-place finisher, Sovereign Kitty.

 

Three weeks later at Belmont, Heavenly Prize picked up where she left off in the Alabama, scoring in the Gazelle Handicap by 6½ lengths. She then won her third consecutive Grade 1 with a six-length victory in the Beldame.

 

Among the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs, Heavenly Prize came up a neck short of 47-1 longshot One Dreamer. The sting of the Breeders’ Cup defeat was somewhat alleviated when Heavenly Prize was named the Eclipse Award winner for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly.

 

Heavenly Prize tuned up for her 4-year-old season by finishing second in the Oaklawn Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap. She was right back in top form at Oaklawn less than three weeks later, defeating Halo America and future Hall of Famer Paseana in the Apple Blossom Handicap. After a two-month break, Heavenly Prize returned to Belmont and defeated another future Hall of Famer, Sky Beauty, in the Hempstead Handicap.

 

Returning to Saratoga, Heavenly Prize crushed her opposition in both the Go for Wand Stakes and John A. Morris Handicap, winning the Grade 1 events by a combined 19½ lengths. After finishing second to future Hall of Famer Serena’s Song in the Beldame, Heavenly Prize finished a distant second to her Phipps-owned stablemate Inside Information in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

 

Heavenly Prize returned for one race as a 5-year-old in 1996, running a credible third behind the great Cigar in the Donn Handicap. Heavenly Prize was then retired with a career record of 9-6-3 from 18 starts and earnings of $1,825,940. Eight of her nine victories took place in Grade 1 events and she was a Grade 1 winner at ages 2, 3, and 4.

 

“That was fun to watch," McGaughey said of Heavenly Prize’s consistent excellence. “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. I’m just proud that she was able to do that at 2, 3, and 4.”

 

Heavenly Prize was retired to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky — where she was foaled and raised — and became a successful broodmare. She produced seven winners from eight starters, including 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.

 

Heavenly Prize died at Claiborne in 2013 at the age of 22.   

 

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