Fair Grounds: How to bet the Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stakes
Check out the field for Saturday’s $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial S. at Fair Grounds, and you’ll find it is essentially a rematch of last month’s Pan Zareta S.
Six of the eight entrants in the Menard Memorial raced in the Pan Zareta, which isn’t surprising, since both are 5 1/2-furlong sprints held over the Fair Grounds turf course. While the morning-line odds suggest we’ll see a different outcome Saturday, I’m skeptical.
Many bettors will support #3 Into Mystic (9-5), the morning-line choice, after her runner-up effort in the Pan Zareta. The 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief has tactical speed, and her lone off-the-board finish of 2020 came after setting a blazing pace in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) against males.
But in the Pan Zareta, Into Mystic was beaten fairly and squarely by #4 Elle Z (7-2), an improving 4-year-old with pure, frontrunning speed. After she upset a 5 1/2-furlong allowance during the Keeneland fall meet, Elle Z posted a gate-to-wire victory in the Pan Zareta, turned back a challenge from #8 Play On (3-1), and held off Into Mystic by a length.
Perhaps reasonable early fractions of :22.18 and :45.39 played to Elle Z’s advantage in the Pan Zareta. But we’re unlikely to see a quicker tempo unfold in the Menard Memorial. Elle Z looms as the lone frontrunner, with Into Mystic and Play On the only others with enough tactical speed to apply early pressure.
I suspect neither mare will take up the challenge, because knocking heads prematurely with a fast filly like Elle Z is not an appealing proposition.
Elle Z has trained forwardly for trainer Chris Hartman, who has won at a 29% rate when he teams up with jockey Mitchell Murrill over the last two months.
So why not play Elle Z to win right back? At 7-2, she is an excellent value play.