07/03/2001 11:00PM

Irish Prize's nose win withstands objection

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Irish Prize, the topweight and odds-on favorite in a field of seven older horses, survived an objection after wearing down front-running Where's Taylor to win the $276,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

The Grade 2 Firecracker was the third consecutive victory, and fifth from his last seven starts, for Irish Prize, a California-based 5-year-old gelding trained by Neil Drysdale.

Irish Prize, ridden by Gary Stevens, prevailed by a nose over Where's Taylor, who had 1 1/4 lengths on Aly's Alley. After an objection against the top two finishers by Calvin Borel, who rode Aly's Alley, the stewards ruled that Where's Taylor had been guilty of fouling Aly's Alley in deep stretch. Aly's Alley was placed second and Where's Taylor third.

Strategic Mission led early in the one-mile Firecracker, but Where's Taylor, ridden by Robby Albarado, took over down the backstretch. Aly's Alley moved toward the leader at the top of the stretch, and then Irish Prize wheeled out to make his run. In the final furlong, Aly's Alley was squeezed repeatedly between the top two.

After Aly's Alley came Band Is Passing, Conserve, Strategic Mission, and Airbourne Command. Northcote Road was an early scratch.

Irish Prize, owned by Gainsborough Farm, returned $3.80 after finishing in 1:34.68 over a turf course rated good. He carried 122 pounds and earned $175,770 in his eighth win from 20 starts, His bankroll now stands at $848,513.

Two earlier turf races were transferred to the main track because of wet conditions.