(Into Mystic / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

Something will have to give when classy Kentucky invaders Into Mystic, Change of Control, and Winning Envelope take on defending champion Play On in Saturday’s $75,000 Pan Zareta. Run at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf, the Pan Zareta is the first grass stakes of the meet and this edition did little to disappoint, with an overflow field of 14 entered, with 12 to meet the starter.

George Chris Coleman and Brad King’s Into Mystic (post 11, 5-2 ML, Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride) has been one of the best in the filly and mare turf sprint ranks all year for trainer Brendan Walsh, as she won the Kentucky Downs Preview Lady Sprint at Ellis Park in August and twice hit the board in graded stakes behind the millionaire Got Stormy, including a nose second in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) at Keeneland in October. That run prompted Walsh to test the 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief in the November 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) against males at Keeneland, where she dueled early and tired to finish 12th, though beaten just 7 lengths. A class drop and outside attack post should suit Into Mystic perfectly, especially as she’s proven plenty versatile in her races.

“The post gives us a lot of options and she doesn’t have to be on the lead,” Walsh said. “She wants to be about 2 lengths off the pace and go from there. She went too quick in the Breeders’ Cup and that was her ultimate undoing but this is a good draw for her.”

Into Mystic, who is 4-for-14 lifetime, has a tactical edge on many of her main rivals, and figures to get first run on a bevy of stalkers and closers, including Change of Control, Winning Envelope, and Play On. Still, Walsh knows things can go awry quickly when going less than three quarters of a mile.

“The trip is key in these turf sprints, since if the slightest thing goes wrong, you’re in trouble” Walsh said. “There’s a lot of nice fillies in there and we have to be at our best but if she retains her form she’s going to be tough. We hope she turns into a nicer filly this year with her best yet to come.”

Roddy Harrison’s Change of Control (post 5, 6-1, Colby Hernandez) was fourth, beaten just 2 lengths, in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County. She will take on Into Mystic for the third straight time, as she was also seventh behind her in the Ladies Sprint (G3) at Kentucky Downs in September. The 4-year-old daughter of Fed Biz is 5-for-20 in her career for trainer Michelle Lovell and was a stalking second in last year’s Pan Zareta, which could be in the cards again this year in a race with plenty of pace up front.

“I think it’s going to be a trip race and hopefully we can get a good one,” Lovell said. “She’s not void of speed so I think we’ll be in a stalking, forward position and hopefully run big. She’s been doing great and has really stepped into her own this year, but this is a salty spot with some really nice fillies, so we need to run well.”

Klein Racing’s homebred Play On (post 4, 4-1, Shaun Bridgmohan) stalked and kicked clear in last year’s Zareta for trainer Brad Cox but will enter under different circumstances as she tries for a repeat. The 4-year-old daughter of Country Day hasn’t been out since running seventh at Churchill Downs in May, whereas last year she prepped off a similar layoff when second in the local Richard R. Scherer Memorial. Play On is 5-for-11 lifetime and owns a homecourt edge as well, as she’s 3-for-5 over the Fair Grounds turf.

Lothenbach Stables Inc.’s Winning Envelope was second in the Ladies Sprint and fifth in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County for trainer Chris Block. The 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready is 4-for-19 lifetime and should be rolling from the back of the pack, while looking to break a six-race losing streak, dating back to her win in the Jersey Lilly at Sam Houston in January.

Tagg Team Racing and Randy Exelby’s Dance Rhythms (post 8, 12-1, Gabriel Saez), a two-time local winner who was third behind Into Mystic in the Kentucky Downs Preview Lady Sprint for trainer Greg Foley, is also entered in the Pan Zareta, as are M Bar O LLC’s Elle Z (post 2, 12-1, Mitchell Murrill); Tri-Star Racing LLC’s Our Lost Love (post 3, 20-1, Jack Gilligan); Suzanne Mundy’s On Probation (post 6, 30-1, James Graham); Russ Davis Revocable Trust’s Dixieincandyland (post 7, 12-1, Adam Beschizza); Tracy Hersman’s Best Kept Secret (post 9, 20-1, Kelsi Harr); Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables LLC, Darsan Inc., Bethlehem Stables LLC, and David Simon’s A Bit of Both (post 10, 8-1, Florent Geroux); and VinLaur Racing Stables LLC’s Xanthique (post 12, 20-1, Brian Hernandez Jr.), while Wayne Davis’s Sterling Miss (post 13, 20-1, Jack Gilligan) and Ten Broeck Farm Inc.’s Mucho Amor (post 14, 20-1, Declan Carroll) on the also-eligible list.

The Pan Zareta, named for the 1914 Champion Older Female and one of the Midwest’s most popular runners, is the ninth-of-10 races on the Saturday card, with a scheduled post time of 4:52 p.m. CT.