(Into Mystic to run in Mardi Gras Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Fat Tuesday / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
If trainer Chris Hartman had his way, the $75,000 Mardi Gras would be run over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. But if you’ve been in New Orleans the past week, you know Mother Nature hasn’t been too cooperative with afternoon plans at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Regardless, Hartman’s Elle Z figures to be in front from the opening bell in the $75,000 Mardi Gras, which is schedule for 5 ½ furlongs on the turf, and is once again the centerpiece on the Fat Tuesday nine-race card.
M Bar O’s Elle Z (post 2 at 7-2 on Mike Diliberto’s morning line with Mitchell Murrill) has been a blur early in a pair of turf stakes at the meet, wiring the Pan Zareta in December and leading early before finishing second to fellow rival Into Mystic in the January 9 Nelson J. Menard Memorial. The 4-year-old daughter of City Zip has run just twice on the main track, but one of those was a win in her debut in the slop at Will Rogers Downs in May of 2020. Elle Z is 4-for-8 lifetime and Hartman knows, whether it’s turf or dirt, he won’t have to look too hard to find Elle Z.
“She’s going to be on the lead regardless,” Hartman said. “Either way (turf or dirt), unless something crazy happens, she’s the fastest one in there. I’d prefer turf but it is what it is.”
George Chris Coleman and Brad King’s Into Mystic (post 1 at 9-5 with Adam Beschizza) turned the tables on Elle Z in the Menard after running second to her in the Pan Zareta. The 5-year-old daughter of Into Mystic has been one of the better filly and mare turf sprinters in the country over the past year for trainer Brandan Walsh, though she too has proven main track form. Into Mystic is 4-for-10 on the dirt, and would likely still be favored should she start if the Mardi Gras is moved off the turf.
Two Delta Downs invaders with proven main track stakes form could be potential upsetters, as Dale F. Taylor Racing’s She’s My Gem (post 7 at 15-1 with James Graham) won the Orleans January 5 for trainer Todd Fincher, while Misty Day (post 10 at 20-1 with Dean Saenz) was 3 lengths behind in second for trainer Victor Arceneaux. The former, a 5 -year-old daughter of Into Mischief who has never tried the turf, is 9-4-4-0 in her career, while the latter, a 4-year-old daughter of Race Day, is 4-for-8 and won an optional-claimer at Delta on the dirt two-back by 5 ¼ lengths.
Lothenbach Stables’ Winning Envelope (post 5 at 10-1 with Marcelino Pedroza) was third in the Pan Zareta and fourth in the Menard for trainer Chris Block but the 5-year-old daughter of More Than Ready is just 0-for-1 on the main track, while Change of Control (post 6 at 12-1 with Colby Hernandez) was third in the Menard for trainer Michelle Lovell but is just 1-for-8 on the main track.
With the Mardi Gras potentially coming off the turf, trainer Al Stall Jr. indicated Bal Mar Equine’s In Good Spirits (post 9 at 8-1 with Miguel Mena) would scratch, while Dalika (Ger) (post 3 at 6-1 with Gerard Melancon) won Saturday’s Albert M. Stall Memorial for the same connections. Lothenbach Stables’ homebred Ready for Change (post 4 at 10-1 with Florent Geroux) is going to scratch to run in an optional-claimer here February 20 according to trainer Neil Pessin. CJ Thoroughbreds’ stable manage C. J. Johnsen indicated that the Mark Casse-trained Jeanie B (GB) (post 8 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) will also scratch if the race comes off the grass.