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NEW ORLEANS, LA – Making her second start back after a lengthy break, Klein Racing homebred Play On looms a dangerous threat to win Saturday’s $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds.
The Menard is a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint restricted to fillies and mares ages 4 and up. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a 10-race card and has a local post time of 4:52 PM.
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Here’s a look at the full field for the Menard:
1. Winning Envelope 5/1 – After a slow start, she rallied from well off the pace to finish third last time out in the Pan Zareta Stakes, held over this course and distance. The two who finished ahead of her return here, but she could turn the tables with a better break. She has a 4-0-2-1 turf sprint record and earned graded placing in Kentucky Downs’ Ladies Sprint (G3).
2. On Probation 30/1 – She finished last of 12 in the Pan Zareta after never running better than 11th behind several of these same rivals. She was 10th in last year’s edition of this race and eighth in 2019, part of her 8-0-0-0 record over the Fair Grounds turf. The 7-year-old mare has not finished closer than 2 lengths behind a race winner since July 2019.
3. Into Mystic 9/5 – She’s become a stakes winner and multiple graded stakes placed runner since becoming a turf sprinter, compiling a 6-1-2-1 record that includes only a single dud, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). She finished second by 1 length behind the Pan Zareta gate-to-wire winner after running a bit farther off the pace than usual. Expect her to be closer here.
4. Elle Z 7/2 – She wired the Pan Zareta in her stakes debut, posting relatively soft fractions for a turf sprint and having enough left to hold off many of these same runners. Expect her to go straight to the front in search of her third straight win, though she appears to be drawn between speed runners here, rather than all the way inside or outside.
5. Change of Control 10/1 – She finished third in last year’s edition after finishing second in the 2019 Pan Zareta, then won a pair of Churchill Downs turf sprint allowance races last summer. She hasn’t returned to that same level, however, as she failed to hit the board in her past 3 tries, all at the stakes level. Trainer Michelle Lovell is 13% in turf sprints with a $3.37 ROI.
6. Snowball 20/1 – This marks just her fourth career start on turf and first against open company after making all 23 prior tries against fellow Louisiana-breds. She broke her maiden over this course and distance in February 2019 and finished second by a head in an Evangeline Downs allowance, but this looks far and away like her toughest test yet.
7. Eyeinthesky 8/1 – She returns to Fair Grounds after finishing fourth in this race last year, then a much-improved third in the Mardi Gras Stakes held at the same distance. The Mark Casse trainee won a pair of ungraded turf sprint stakes in 2019 and missed winning the 6-furlong Royal North Stakes (G2) at Woodbine by 3/4 of a length.
8. Play On 3/1 – She pressed the Pan Zareta pace before fading late and getting pushed back to fourth at the wire in her first start after a six-month layoff. The defending race runner-up put together a 4-2-2-0 record sprinting over this course and distance at last year’s meet, all of which were stakes, and trainer Brad Cox connects at 20% in turf sprints.
“I think the post is OK, as she’s always forwardly placed,” Cox said. “I think we’re going to get a good read on her this weekend. Her work this past weekend was really, really good, so I’m expecting a big run.”
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