08/07/2012 12:36PM

Saratoga: Ward still chasing elusive first Grade 1 victory

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Barbara D. Livingston
Emma's Encore (left) beats Judy the Beauty to the wire in the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y – Lost in all the emotion of trainer Allen Jerkens’s first Grade 1 win in five years following Emma’s Encore’s victory in Saturday’s Prioress Stakes was the huge effort turned in by runner-up Judy the Beauty. Emma’s Encore ran down Judy the Beauty in the final strides of the Prioress to post a nose decision, frustrating Wesley Ward in another agonizingly close but futile attempt to win the first Grade 1 race of his training career.

“It wasn’t a tough beat, it was a horrible beat,” Ward said. “I’ve been second in Grade 1 races all over the world – Ascot, Dubai. I’m kind of getting used to it.”

Perhaps Ward’s most noteworthy near-miss in a Grade 1 race came in the 2010 Florida Derby, when his Pleasant Prince was beaten inches by Ice Box. Judy the Beauty also finished second here last summer behind Grace Hall in the Grade 1 Spinaway.

“She ran great and came out of the race excellent,” Ward said of Judy the Beauty. “The Test comes back a little quick, and I have another one for the race anyway, Gypsy Robin. We’ll just look a little further down the road and try to space her out a lot.”

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez reported that Agave Kiss, who finished third as the odds-on favorite in the Prioress, also will pass the Test. Agave Kiss has now lost two races in a row after opening her career with six consecutive victories.

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“I was happy with the way she ran,” Rodriguez said. “You always want to win those kind of races, but she ran a very good race. We’re going to freshen her up and maybe run her with the New York-breds in the Showcase at Belmont.”

Trainer Eddie Kenneally said he was forced to scratch Jamaican Smoke from the Prioress due to a “minor” issue that will keep her sidelined for the remainder of the meet.

Jamaican Smoke has won two of her last three starts and was second behind Emma’s Encore in the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 7.

“It was disappointing for everybody that we couldn’t run her Saturday, but we had no choice,” Kenneally said. “It’s nothing major, but she’s going to need a little quiet time. We’ll pick another spot out for her in the fall.”