Ward Fillies Look Competitive in Mamzelle Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 9th, 2019

If there’s a trainer in North America more successful than at conditioning young turf sprinters, I don’t know who it would be.

So it should come as no surprise Ward has prepared a trio of 3-year-old fillies to contest Saturday’s $100,000 Mamzelle Stakes at Churchill Downs, a five-furlong turf sprint with a dozen entries. The most accomplished of the Ward trio is #5 Chelsea Cloisters, and while this daughter of First Samurai is just 1-for-7 overall, she’s hit the board in five straight stakes races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and the Indian Summer Stakes against males last year.

But Chelsea Cloisters was a little dull while finishing third in the Limestone Turf Sprint Stakes at Keeneland last month, weakening down the lane as the top two pulled away. Perhaps she’ll improve in her second start of the season, but I’m more interested in shooting for a price with her stablemate #1 Iva.

Admittedly, this is something of a hunch play. Iva was essentially eased while finishing last in the Beaumont Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last month, but she was traveling more than seven furlongs over a sloppy, sealed track, and she got sharply squeezed out of position halfway through the race—I’m inclined to just draw a line through her performance.

If you follow suit and ignore Iva’s Beaumont effort, her record looks just fine. She’s 2-for-2 sprinting five furlongs, broke her maiden on turf last May and won the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes over the Polytrack at Turfway Park in February. She’s got plenty of tactical speed but can rate off the lead if necessary, and as a daughter of Scat Daddy, she should enjoy the return to turf for the Mamzelle Stakes.

The third Ward filly is #9 Abyssinian, who won a five-furlong allowance race over the Gulfstream turf course before she finished third against males in the Palisades Turf Sprint Stakes at Keeneland. She’s another filly with speed—there’s no shortage of frontrunners and pressers in this field—but speed is dangerous in five-furlong sprints, and I’d rather play fast fillies than slow-starting closers.

A wildcard is #7 Catherinethegreat, who won the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) at Saratoga last summer. Trained by Mark Casse, Catherinethegreat has never run on turf and is returning from a seven-month layoff, but she has class and posted some sharp workouts over the Palm Meadows turf course during the winter, including five furlongs in :59 4/5 March 30.

I’m tempted to just box these four fillies in the exacta, but in an effort to more accurately bet my opinion of the race, I’ll key Iva and require her to finish in the top two in order to cash:

$4 exacta: 1 with 5,7,9 ($12) $4 exacta: 5,7,9 with 1 ($12)

Good luck!