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Pan Zareta Preview: Defending Champ Play On Back For Seconds
Play On winning the 2019 Pan Zareta (Credit: Hodges Photography)

Pan Zareta Preview: Defending Champ Play On Back For Seconds

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Defending race champion Play On is back at the table for seconds but must face an overdrawn field in Saturday’s $75,000 Pan Zareta Stakes at Fair Grounds.

The Pan Zareta is a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint open to fillies and mares ages 3 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 Pan Zareta:

1. Winning Envelope 5/1 – She has run consistently well since June, finishing second in 3 straight starts before finishing a late-closing fifth in the Franklin County Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. She’s still seeking her first one-turn victory on turf, but she seems to be blooming late in her 4-year-old year and is a major threat here with any continued improvement.

2. Elle Z 12/1 – She steps up to the stakes ranks for the first time after a strong front-running score against allowance rivals while going this same distance at Keeneland. She’ll have to overcome being drawn inside all of the other speed horses, but she retains jockey Mitchell Murrill for the second straight start; he and trainer Chris Hartman have a 22% strike rate together.

3. Our Lost Love 20/1 – She won twice at the stakes level through this past February and earned her first turf score against optional claimers at Louisiana Downs in August. Though this is a big step up in class compared to what she’s been facing, her 3 best career Beyer Speed Figures all came on the lawn, over which she has a 3-2-1-0 record.

4. Play On 4/1 – The defending champ made last year’s edition the second of her 3 stakes wins to date, including this past February’s Mardi Gras over this same course and distance. She made only 1 start since then, finishing a flat seventh against allowance rivals at Churchill Downs, but she’s won off a layoff before and keeps Shaun Bridgmohan, the only jockey she’s known.

5. Change of Control 6/1 – She returns to the Pan Zareta after finishing second behind Play On by 1 1/4 lengths and takes a class drop after making her last 2 starts against tougher Grade 3 fields. She fits better here and has a consistent turf sprint record of 11-4-3-1, which includes upsetting Churchill Downs’ 2019 Mamzelle Stakes at 35/1.

6. On Probation 30/1 – She returns to the turf after failing to make much of an impact in a pair of dirt sprints, including the TCA Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. Despite the class drop, she still might be in a bit over her head here; her career-best turf Beyer Speed Figure is the lowest among all horses drawn into the field and her last win came against lesser on July 14, 2019.

7. Dixieincandyland 12/1 – She takes a second stab at the stakes level after never threatening in the Ladies Sprint Stakes (G3) over a soft Kentucky Downs lawn 2 starts back. Trainer Eddie Kenneally has slowly and steadily brought her along in her career and has a 24% win rate in turf sprints, but she’ll have to one-up A Bit of Both, who narrowly beat her last time out.

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8. Dance Rhythms 12/1 – She makes her second try in a stakes after finishing third behind Into Mystic in the Ladies Sprint Preview Stakes at Ellis Park. She always finds a way to put herself into the mix, as her 15-5-2-3 record at this distance indicates, and she’s run well against several of the rivals she’ll face again here. 

9. Best Kept Secret 20/1 – After making her first 13 appearances on dirt, she switched to turf and posted a front-running score at Canterbury Park against optional claimers, then stalked the pace before defeating the same class at Remington Park. Though this is her first run for new trainer Larry Jones, she keeps Kelsi Harr aboard for the fifth straight time.

10. A Bit of Both 8/1 – She won her first start for current trainer Mike Maker with a game pace-pressing score against allowance company at Keeneland in October, then took a fast off-turf allowance at Churchill Downs in November. Florent Geroux rides for the third straight time and has a 21% win rate since 2019 when Maker legs him up.

11. Into Mystic 5/2 – The morning line favorite takes a tremendous class drop after setting the pace and quitting hard in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Keeneland. She’ll appreciate not having to face Got Stormy or the rest of the world’s best turf sprinters; she won the Ladies Sprint Preview at Ellis Park and is developing into a top-level runner in this division.

12. Xanthique 20/1 – She’ll try to rebound after finishing a disappointing eighth in the Floral Park Stakes last time out, though part of that could’ve been due to the soft Belmont Park turf that day. She won her lone prior start, a 5 1/2-furlong dash over a firm Saratoga lawn against optional claimers, and trainer Tom Morley wins 17% in turf sprints.

13. Sterling Miss (Also Eligible) 20/1 – The first of two entries on the outside looking in, she was claimed for an optional $40k tag out of her last start, a 6-furlong dirt sprint at Indiana Grand. She ran huge there at the same level in her previous start, a 5-furlong turf dash that she won by 2 1/2 lengths and that earned her an 87 Beyer Speed Figure, a career-best on turf.

14. Mucho Amor (Also Eligible) 20/1 – She’ll need at least 2 horses to scratch in order to make the starting gate in what would be her second start for new trainer Grant Forster. Her 2 prior turf attempts were sprints at similar stakes levels, but the Beyer Speed Figures that she earned are the lowest of anyone entered, and it’s not that close to the horse above her.

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