Brendan Walsh-trained Into Mystic takes Nelson Menard

Fair Grounds stakes recap (Hodges Photography photo above)

New Orleans (January 9, 2021) – They do say revenge is a dish best served cold. George Chris Coleman and Brad King’s Into Mystic, who ran out of room trying to catch Elle Z in last month’s locally run Pan Zareta, reeled her in this time on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, posting a 1-length win in the $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial.

Trained by Kentucky-based Brendan Walsh, Into Mystic won the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint at Ellis Park in August before finishing a good third in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000, Grade 3 Real Solution Ladies Sprint and losing Keeneland’s Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County by a nose to multiple Grade 1 winner Got Stormy.

Into Mystic winning Ellis Park’s $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint under Joe Talamo. Coady Photography

Into Mystic, the 1.30-1 favorite in the Menard, broke running under Florent Geroux and was urged a bit early to keep her inside position while 3.90-1 third-choice Elle Z began to roll on the outside to her usual position on the early lead. Geroux was put in a tight spot on the backstretch, as Into Mystic was shuffled back a bit and pinned inside by Play On while Elle Z cleared off on the lead, much like she did in the December 9 Pan Zareta. Geroux was able to get Into Mystic off the inside and out to the 3-path, where the duo split horses and took dead aim on a clear Elle Z. Gaining with each stride, Into Mystic gradually wore down a game Elle Z for the win. She covered 5 1/2 furlongs in  1:04.53 over turf rated “good.” Change of Control rallied mildly for third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Elle Z.

Geroux, aboard Into Mystic for the first time, huddled with Walsh in the paddock to come up with a gameplan that wouldn’t allow Elle Z to get too far away early this time around.

“I talked it over with Brendan before the race and we thought that was the best option for our filly,” Geroux said. “Let Elle Z just go to the lead, put my filly in a nice cozy spot not too far off those two horses in front. We had a nice, smooth trip and when I asked her turning for home, she gave me a very nice kick. She proved she was the best filly in the race.”

Into Mystic entered the Pan Zareta as one of the leading filly and mare turf sprinters in the country off of her form in Kentucky, where her only off-the-board effort came against males in in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland, in which she was pressured into setting a torrid pace before fading to 12th. Relocating to the Fair Grounds, the 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief found herself fifth early in the Paz Zareta and was left with a bit too much to do late behind the free-wheeling Elle Z, and came up a length short. Walsh thought it over and decided to split the difference in the Menard.

“We were probably a little too far back the last day (Pan Zareta), but it was as much my fault as anybody’s,” Walsh said. “She had made the running (lead) in the Breeders’ Cup, and the last thing we wanted was to get stuck on the front end again. We learned our lesson. Florent gave her a beautiful ride today. He had her in the perfect spot. The filly had been doing great coming in here. It’s great to win for these owners too. It’s their first trip to the Fair Grounds and it’s going to be memorable.”

Into Mystic is now 5-for-16 lifetime and has earned $325,273, and Walsh indicated he’s not about to change what has worked.

“We will let her tell us,” Walsh said. “We are always contemplating needing a little time off if ever they need it, but she’s been doing well and she’s been doing it on the racetrack. I hate to stop on them when they’re doing so good, so we will keep going for the time being, provided she comes out of this good.”

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Jennie Rees