Midst Tops Saturday's Bienville for Pletcher-Velazquez

Lets Go Stable’s Midst brings jockey John Velazquez to Fair Grounds for the first time this season to ride the Todd Pletcher-trained 7-2 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $60,000 Bienville Stakes.

As the weekends’ headline attraction, the Bienville, for older fillies and mares at about 5 1/2-furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course, is observing its 25th anniversary edition and has attracted a field of 11.

Midst won Canada’s $157,000 My Dear Stakes as a juvenile, was sidelined for 10 months, returned to competition to easily win an allowance optional claiming test at Keeneland last April but finished fourth in Monmouth’s $91,000 Just Smashing Stakes May 31 and has been sidelined since then. The 4-year-old daughter of Closing Argument has been breezing frequently over the Palm Meadows turf course this winter.

Capable of providing strong competition for the somewhat fragile Midst is Andrena Van Doren’s Starlite Starbrite, clearly best over the main track at Fair Grounds on Feb. 3 in allowance optional claiming company and an easy winner at Indiana’s Hoosier Park last September. The daughter of Mutakddim is trained by Tom Amoss, is to be ridden by James Graham, and has been installed as the 4-1 second choice in the Bienville although she will be making her first start over grass.

Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Wild About Marie and Team Valor International and Highfield Stock Farm’s Chantilly Nayla, first and second, respectively, in Fair Grounds’ $59,000 Leggio Memorial Jan. 22, are both worthy of consideration in the Bienville, as is Carl Moore’s Speedacious, a winner of her last two in Louisiana-bred stakes competition. Wild About Marie has Richard Eramia aboard, Chantilly Nayla has Shaun Bridgmohan slated for the saddle, and regular rider Carlos Gonzalez returns in the irons on Speedacious.

Completing the Bienville field is Melnyk Racing Stables’ Mullins Beach, Rosie Napravnik; Robson Thoroughbreds’ Smoky Belle, Kerwin Clark; Martin Racing and Morgan Thoroughbred’s Beat the Blues, Jamie Theriot; Thoroughbred Futures Racing’s Leopard Rock, Corey Lanerie; Heiligbrodt Racing’s Kinsolving, Shane Sellers; and Andrew Farm et al.’s Celadon, Miguel Mena.