Change Of Control, Elle Z Go Head-To-Head Again In Mardi Gras Stakes

M Bar O’s Elle Z is in the best form of her career. Perry Harrison’s Change of Control is a two-time graded stakes winner. Four weeks ago, they put on a show in the Fred P. Aime Memorial with the former prevailing by a nose, and on Tuesday they’ll go hoof to hoof once again in the $75,000 Mardi Gras Stakes.

The winner of the Nelson J. Menard by five open lengths earlier in the meet, Elle Z has eight career victories on her resume, none of which resemble her hard fought Aime score. Headed at the top of the stretch by Change of Control who chased just off the pacesetter throughout, Elle Z was forced to battle back, and she displayed the heart of a lion, edging her classy foe by the narrowest of margins. It was the first start of the season for the 6-year-old mare Change of Control, who won the Autumn Days two months earlier at Aqueduct in her start prior. Trainer Michelle Lovell believes Elle Z’s recency edge may have been the deciding factor.

“Unfortunately, with her (Change of Control) not getting a race in before (the Aime), we couldn’t make any mistakes,” Lovell said. “I think Colby (jockey Hernandez) counted on her to just go on. I think when he let up on her a little bit because he has so much confidence in her, she was looking for the wire, and that other filly (Elle Z) was grinding back at us, headed us and then past us. Then my filly had to dig deep and grind back to her. I thought it was a really courageous try for my filly to fight back. She came out of the race really good. I thought she’d be a little more tired because she ran hard.”

With regular rider Mitchell Murrill aboard from post four, Elle Z has been installed as the slight 9-5 favorite over Change of Control (post five with Colby Hernandez at 2-1) on Tuesday, but Lovell is confident her daughter of Fed Biz can turn the tables.

“My filly has come from further back,” Lovell said. “She can stalk. I don’t think Elle Z will be alone out there. I also have Sail On Ellen in there. She has speed and we’re just going to let her run her race. I want Sail on Ellen to have a shot at a stakes placing for her owner (Hoi Fung) and breeder (Double Duck, Inc.). There is other speed in there too.”

Eight older fillies and mares will contest the 5 ½ furlong distance of the Mardi Gras Stakes (race eight at 4:36 p.m. CT) on what is sure to be a festive day at Fair Grounds.

The field is as follows (with jockey/trainer and morning line odds):

  1. Katherine G and Michael Bell’s Skinny Dip (Brian J. Hernandez, Jr./Greg Foley, 6-1 ML), last seen finishing third behind her stablemate Yes It’s Ginger in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Preview at Ellis Park on August 8;
  2. Hoi Fung’s Sail On Ellen (Deshawn Parker/Michelle Lovell, 12-1 ML), the recent winner of a second-level optional claiming “off the turf” allowance at Fair Grounds;
  3. Wayne T. Davis’ Onerollofthedice (Roberto Morales/Shane Wilson, 15-1 ML), fifth last out in the Aime Memorial;
  4. M Bar O’s Elle Z (Mitchell Murrill/Chris Hartman, 9-5 ML), a four-time stakes winner at Fair Grounds, three of those on turf;
  5. Perry Harrison’s Change of Control (Colby Hernandez/Michelle Lovell, 2-1 ML), winner of a pair of G3 stakes in New York last year;
  6. Jerry Namy’s Elle’s Town (Reylu Gutierrez/Karl Broberg, 12-1 ML), eighth in the Menard Memorial last out)
  7. Joseph W. Sutton’s More Than Unusual (Adam Beschizza/Eddie Keneally, 8-1 ML), an intriguing cutback candidate; and
  8. Klein Racing’s Goin’ Good (Marcelino Pedroza, Jr./Brad Cox, 6-1 ML), a four-time winner making her 4-year-old debut.

Lovell also provided an update on her prized male sprinter Just Might, a seven-time stakes winner in 2021 who was most recently seen finishing second in the locally run Colonel Power Stakes on February 19.

“He came out of it good, happy and healthy,” Lovell said of her 6-year-old gelding, who was disqualified from a victory in the Duncan F. Kenner Memorial in his start prior for backstretch interference.

There was some buzz a few weeks ago that Just Might could be pointed to race on the Dubai World Cup undercard at Meydan on Saturday, March 26, but Lovell is starting to lean against such an ambitious voyage.

“They (Dubai Racing Club) haven’t contacted me recently,” Lovell said of a potential invitation to the Al Quoz Sprint (G1), a race that was won last year by fellow American Extravagant Kid. “I know they have a list three pages long of nominations so they may be just trying to get through those that are at that (class) level. I’m happy trying to win races in Kentucky, support my own country, and get the money we are capable of getting. It could be a huge success or it could be a huge loss, but it’s a far way to go to find out.”

A 6-year-old gelded son of Justin Phillip, Just Might has won ten races, banking $851,414 in the process.

“We haven’t even won a graded stakes yet, and I don’t know if I want to swing for the fences like that for the first one,” Lovell explained. “I’m just trying to do the right thing for my horse. If we could knock out some really good graded stakes races this year and we wanted to do it (go to Dubai) next year, that might make more sense.”

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