Mia's Crusade Wins Second Consecutive Spruce Fir Handicap

After seven months off, Mia’s Crusade picked up where she left off, proving her gameness and determination with yet another win against New Jersey-breds on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

The 5-year-old daughter of Greenpointcrusader had to dig in through the late stages of the stretch, finally sticking her neck in front of a stubborn Bel Pensiero to capture the 28th running of the $85,000 Spruce Fir Handicap.

The winning time for the six furlongs was 1:11.55.

Owned by Prancing Horse Farm (Joseph and Gayle Ioia) and trained by Chuck Spina, Mia’s Crusade earned her third straight win in a state-bred stakes company and fourth overall. She now has a 6-2-2 line from 13 career starts at Monmouth Park and is 5-for-10 at the six-furlong distance.

She had not raced since winning the Pinot Grigio Stakes on the grass at The Meadowlands on Oct. 6.

“Bel Pensiero gave us a heck of a challenge,” said Spina. “She runs great fresh. She’s won off a layoff three different times now. The layoff didn’t affect her at all. I was afraid of Bel Pensiero.

“I don’t think I’ve ever won three stakes in a row with the same horse. I was pleased with her effort.”

Ridden by Jomar Torres, who has been aboard her for her past 14 starts, Mia’s Crusade was fifth in a bunched-up group down the backside, Torres had her three-wide coming out of the final with Bel Pensiero and Sadie Baby dueling in the mix before Mia’s Crusader and Bel Penisiero separated from the five other fillies and mares, three and up.

Those two dueled nose to nose for the final sixteenth before Mia’s Crusade surged in front.

She paid $4.00 to win as the favorite.

“It set up really well for her,” said Torres. “She always gets up for me. I just waited for the moment and she responded very well. She always tries and just keeps fighting. I was not worried about getting by. I knew she would get her head in front. That’s the type of horse she is. She always tries hard, like she did today.”

Mia’s Crusade also won the Spruce Fir a year ago, one of four state-bred stakes wins she now has.

Spina said she would be pointed next to the Smart N Classy Handicap for Jersey-bred fillies and mares on June 2 at Monmouth Park.

“If it was sloppy she would go wire to wire. Otherwise she stalks. This is the way she races,” said Spina. “She was never more than three lengths out of it. She’s just so honest. The Smart N Classy is two weeks from today and that’s next for her. She just so consistent and honest. It’s amazing.”

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