Race 11 at Churchill Downs | Saturday, May 30 | Post Time 6:16 PM Eastern Time
Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes| Purse $100,000 | One Mile and One-Sixteenth on Turf | Fillies and Mares, Four Years Old and Upward
Personally, I’m not a fan of Mint Juleps. However, I’m really looking forward to this year’s Mint Julep Stakes which is an unbelievably good betting race. The first reason is a field of 14 signed on and the turf course allows for this size field so if there aren’t scratches it means it is unlikely there will be a heavy favorite. The second reason is the starting favorite, Juliet Foxtrot (1), returns from a LONG layoff, as does the second favorite Beau Recall (2). The former finished second or third in three straight grade 1 or 2 races to end her 2019 campaign while the latter has earned over $1 million including a pair of grade 2 stakes, one of those the Distaff Turf Mile on the Churchill Downs turf last May. STILL, it’s going to be very tough for either to be ready to compete off six months on the bench or more, particularly as a number of the others, who are as good as they are, have run in the past few months. Trainer Brad Cox is solid with horses off layoffs, including when getting Owendale to win last week on dirt, BUT Cox’s record with horses off 180 days or more in turf routes is only 6 for 38 the past few years, and 0 for 4 in stakes. As such, I will try to beat them and if right we can make money.
Trainer Brendan Walsh also has a pair in the race, consisting of La Signare (5) and Zofelle (11), who BOTH open at 20/1 and if I like one I’d be foolish not to like the other in terms of betting them. La Signare won the Grade 3 Wonder Again stakes in June, 2018, the second start of her three year old year and second since coming to the U.S. She went winless in seven races after that, three for Brian Lynch and three after moving to the Walsh barn, BUT the key is she turned that all around with a win at the end of March in the Sand Springs Stakes at Gulfstream, an effort which earned her a career best 107 Equibase figure. Rallying six wide in that race, La Signare moved from sixth and six and one-half lengths back on the turn to make the lead near the wire. She’s put in two exceptional workouts in preparation for the race and has all the credentials to win.
Zofelle was beaten three-quarters of a length by her stablemate in the Sand Springs, as the 3 to 2 favorite (La Signare was 5 to 1), rallying form eighth and just out finished by La Signare. Only worse than second one time in five starts since coming to the U.S., Zofelle has also worked very well for Walsh coming into the race and her career-best effort, when winning the Pago Hop Stakes in December on turf, yielded a 112 figure which could be improved upon as she was just a three year old back then.
There are a slew of other contenders, and I wouldn’t argue against anyone betting any of them to win at odds of 10/1 or more, perhaps a bit lower, but with two 20/1 shots to key on there’s no reason to consider win bets on any of the others. Still, I think it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of a few. We’ll start with Chad Brown’s pair of Altea (8), opening at 12/1, and Nay Lady Nay (6), opening at 4/1, as well as She’sonthewarpath (4). Altea missed by inches to She’sonthewarpath, in the Tom Benson Memorial Stakes in March at the distance on turf and prior to that Altea missed by inches in the Grade 3 Endeavour. She doesn’t seem to get there a lot, evidenced by a 2-7-4 record in 18 turf races, but she does have a big late kick and double digit odds. Nay Lady Nay was a top three year old last year when winning three of four turf routes including two stakes, one of which was the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere over this course. She comes back from six months off but Brown’s record with these types, winning 35% of the time over many years, is must stronger than Cox and Brown did it again last week winning a stakes with Raging Bull at Santa Anita. Still, Nay Lady Nay faces older in stakes for the first time and her 105 best figure from the Mrs. Revere is competitive, but not worthy of the probability suggested by her likely low odds of about 3/1 near post time. She’sonthewarpath has done a lot right in her career and opening at 20/1 I could be persuaded to make her the THIRD horse I’d bet to win here. She won on the course last May but was sixth in the Mrs. Revere. However, she enters the race off two strong stakes wins on turf with 104 figures.
Although I feel Juliet Foxtrot and Beau Recall are not win contenders, I wouldn’t leave them off second on exacta tickets, particularly with 20/1 shots on top. Additionally, Winning Envelope (3), Secret Message (7) and Mitchell Road (14) must be considered as well. Winning Envelope gets a jockey change to Leparoux, who rode her brilliantly to win a strong allowance race last fall at Keeneland, and she won the Jersey Lily Stakes on the grass in January. Secret Message won back-to-back stakes on grass last April and May as well as the identical G3 Pucker Up Stakes the summer prior and Motion does well with horses coming back from layoffs. Mitchell Road, a three time stakes winner who has never been worse than second in six races at this nine furlong turf trip, gets a pretty disadvantageous far outside post because she’s rarely farther back then a couple of length early so Talamo will either have to change her style and pull her farther back then she’s every been (except once) going into the first turn, or he will have to ask her for speed and hope that doesn’t take away any fight she has in the late stages.
Win Bets: La Signare (5) and Zofelle (11) to win at 4 to 1 or higher.
You could bet both to place as well at 8 to 1 or more but I prefer the exacta strategy below instead.
Exacta as a place bet: For just $1, play ALL over La Signare (5) and Zofelle (11).
In this 14 horse field, the bet has a cost of $26 if all run, so it’s similar to betting $13 to place on both horses. In this wide open group, if any horse other than one of the top three betting choices wins, the bet should return much more than the $13 place bet.
La Signare (5) and Zofelle (11) over La Signare (5), Zofelle (11), Nay Lady Nay (8), Altea (8), She’sonthewarpath (4), Juliet Foxtrot (1), Beau Recall (2), Winning Envelope (3), Secret Message (7) and Mitchell Road (14).
At the $1 level, the cost of the bet is $18. The cost of the La Signare (5) and Zofelle (11) over ALL exacta is $26, so not a lot more to include all potential combinations IF La Signare or Zofelle wins.