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Elle Z Lukewarm Morning-Line Favorite in Contentious Menard Memorial
Speedy Hartman filly looks to bounce back
from a narrow loss in her Pan Zareta title defense
New Orleans (December 31, 2021) – Twice a local stakes winner in her 15-race career, M Bar O’s Elle Z led every step of the way in the Pan Zareta Stakes last out. Every step except the most important one that is. Nailed in the final jump by Brooke Marie here four weeks ago, Elle Z will face a host of fresh challengers in Saturday’s $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The winner of the Pan Zareta the year before, the newly-turned 5-year-old daughter of City Zip also took the “off the turf” edition of the Mardi Gras on February 16 for trainer Chris Hartman. Installed as Mike Diliberto’s lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite, she will leave from post 7 with regular pilot Mitchell Murrill astride.
“She came out of the Pan Zareta good,” Chris Hartman said.
With several horses who will likely be competing for the early lead, don’t expect Elle Z to do anything but send.
“That’s who she is,” Hartman said. “She ain’t gonna change.”
Lothenbach Stables’ She Can’t Sing has been a bit of an enigma during her 24-race career. She’s won three times on dirt and once on synthetics for trainer Chris Block, but she has failed to get her picture taken from six turf tries. She ran the race of her life two back over the one-turn dirt mile at Churchill, rolling home by 5 ¼ lengths while earning a career-best 97 Bris speed figure in the process. She drew post five with Jereth Loveberry aboard at 6-1.
“She is doing fine,” Chris Block said. “She’s coming into the race like she does in most races, she’s very happy. I don’t know that 5 and ½ furlongs is her best distance. I know grass is not her best surface, but she has run solid races on it in the past. There are others that are more accomplished on grass in there. But if there is a real hot pace she should be somewhat in a good spot turning for home to maybe be able to run them down.”
After competing at Saratoga, Belmont, Del Mar and Oaklawn Park in her last four starts, Three Diamond Farm’s Time Limit lands in New Orleans for her first local start. Second in the Matron (G3) while sprinting on the Belmont turf back in October of 2019, this 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Bustin’ Stones just missed in the Senator Ken Maddy while dashing on the Del Mar turf two back. Recently second in a conditioned optional claiming allowance on Oaklawn dirt, this versatile Mike Maker trainee drew the rail with Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. (7-2 ML) aboard.
A $16,000 claimer a little more than two years ago, All My Hart Racing’s Payntdembluesaway has won eight of her last 11 starts for trainer Jane Cibelli, all in turf sprints. She won the Claiming Crown Distaff Dash Starter Stakes, and will look to add some black type to her resume on Saturday. James Graham takes the reins from post eight aboard this 9-2 morning-line shot.
Completing the field for the Nelson J. Menard Memorial (race 8 at 4:36 p.m. CT), with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds: Brilliant Racing & Tagg Team Racing’s Yes It’s Ginger (post 2, Brian Hernandez, Jr./Greg Foley, 8-1 ML), winner of the Chicken Fried Stakes at Lone Star and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Preview at Ellis Park in 2021; John and Iveta Kerber and Jon Lapczenski’s Ain’t No Elmers (post 3, Adam Beschizza/Bret Calhoun, 6-1 ML), a four-time winner who was third in her only career try on turf); Jerry Namy’s Elle’s Town (post 4, Colby Hernandez/Karl Broberg, 6-1 ML), a five-time winner who was a close fourth last out in the Pan Zareta; and Conrad Farm’s Beyond Budget (post 6, Orlando Mojica/Mark Casse, 10-1 ML) a runaway winner of a second-level optional claiming allowance over 7 furlongs of Tapeta last time out.
“Elle Z doesn’t seem to give in much, under any pace scenario,” Chris Block said. “But maybe there will be somebody that might push her a little harder than she wants to be pushed and maybe that will soften her up a little bit.”
“[She Can’t Sing] was coming into that race [October 2nd’s OC 80k/N3X at Churchill Downs] really good,” Chris Block said. “I didn’t expect that big of an effort out of her. But I thought she would run very well. She likes Churchill’s dirt surface a lot so I think her effort was due to the combination of some time in between races and the fact that she loved the Churchill surface.”
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 15 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 150th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 109th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 25, 2021 through March 27, 2022. More information is available online at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.