Fair Grounds: 2023 Nelson J. Menard Stakes Value Play

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

January 12th, 2023

An overflow field of 13 fillies and mares, five of which are on the also-eligible list, will dash 5 1/2 panels on the Fair Grounds lawn in Saturday’s $100,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial S. The competitive turf sprint features a field with numerous quick horses that will ensure a swift early tempo, and I will tab an off-the-pace contender to upset the cast under the wire.

I was very impressed with the fast-closing tally posted by the Bernie Flint-conditioned #2 Touch of Class (8-1) at Keeneland two races back and will side with the mare at a nice number in the affair. By Mizzen Mast, the five-year-old is a winner on the local green and has been in solid form in 2022, led by a stakes third at Ellis Park in August. In her latest venture, the gray raced over the Fair Grounds main surface and made a moderate late move to check in fourth in the Pan Zareta S.

Touch of Class has performed well in each of her pair of local assignments and might offer excellent value coming off of her latest appearance, especially since she is returning to an oval that she prefers. Brian Hernandez, Jr will be in the stirrups and taking back while saving ground in the early stages, prior to asking the mare for her best run late.

#3 Astute (3-1) possesses the speed and raw ability to be a real danger in the cast while making her debut for trainer Brad Cox. The Speightstown five-year-old is lightly raced with just four outings to her credit, but the stakes-winning mare has flashed considerable potential in three of those tilts and has been training like a contender who is ready to fire. She has posted bullet morning drills in succession in advance of Saturday, and she looms as the one to catch with go-to pilot Florent Geroux accepting the call. 

#7 Oeuvre (2-1) is a dual-surface threat who is a fine eight-for-14 lifetime for Chris Block. The Illinois-bred daughter of Shackleford dons a 4-2-0-2 career mark on the weeds and has compiled two straight stakes wins as of late during her fine form cycle, beating Touch of Class in the Pan Zareta S. The versatile filly can run well from both on, or off, the tempo and will be hard to keep out of the top three with anything resembling her top effort. Jareth Loveberry retains the mount.

Nelson J. Menard Value Plays

  • $15 win and place: #2 Touch of Class ($30)
  • $4 exacta: key box 2 with 3, 7 ($16)
  • $2 trifecta: box 2, 3, 7 ($12)