Fair Grounds: How to bet the Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 7th, 2021

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.

A win bet will be our first order of business, but we’ll also play Elle Z on top of a trifecta, with Into Mystic keyed underneath.

$18 to win on #4 Elle Z
$2 trifecta: 4 with 3 with 1,7,8 ($6)
$2 trifecta: 4 with 1,7,8 with 3 ($6)
Total: $30

Good luck!