Expected favorite Juju’s Map and Venti’s Valentine are entered in the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. The two fillies briefly found themselves around the top mix of fillies in this crop in the past, and both of them can use this race to propel back in that direction.
What made each of these two fillies stand out in the past?
Here is a recap of Juju's Map's juvenile record first. To start off her career, Juju's Map finished second in her debut in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden sprint at Ellis Park. After the impressive maiden win, she made a successful stretch out to one mile and broke her maiden at Ellis Park by 5 3/4 lengths, earning a respectable 105 TimeformUS Speed Figure.
Juju’s Map then took a shot at the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) in October off the impressive Ellis Park win. She used stalking tactics early on before taking over over the lead and drawing clear by 4 1/4 lengths late.
Juju’s Map’s win came off as impressive from a visual standpoint again, and she earned a 112 on TimeformUS. She was a legitimate threat to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies off the strong Alcibiades effort.
Unfortunately for Juju’s Map, she ran into a buzzsaw in Echo Zulu when they met in the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar. Juju’s Map tracked the pacesetter Echo Zulu in third for most of the race, but she could only battle for second in the latter stages of the race as Echo Zulu drew clear after an uncontested lead and won easily.
Following the runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup, Juju’s Map went on the shelf and missed the winter and spring preps for the Kentucky Oaks. She became a bit forgotten by the racing public as good fillies such as Secret Oath and Nest rose to the top of the filly division.
But Juju’s Map came back strong by winning a Churchill Downs optional claiming race on May 6 by 4 3/4 lengths. She earned a career high 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the win and figures to move forward.
The Mother Goose sets up well for Juju’s Map. According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, she is the probable leader through a slow pace. If she can take the next step and capture the Mother Goose, she might became a top filly again. At a minimum, expect to see her in Grade 1 races down the line.
Now to discuss Venti Valentine.
In last year’s campaign, Venti Valentine had shown good signs of a 2-year-old filly with top talent. In only her third start, Venti Valentine lost by a neck to future Ashland Stakes (G1) winner Nest in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2), despite not even liking nine furlongs. She then took a break.
Upon returning to racing in March at Aqueduct, Venti Valentine hit the top mix of many Kentucky Oaks lists with a smashing seven-length win in the Busher Invitational. After such a great win, maybe Venti Valentine had taken the next step forward as a 3-year-old filly after her time off.
Venti Valentine earned a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the Busher.
But in that time period when Secret Oath and Nest became top players in the filly division, Venti Valentine lost some credibility as a major player with her second in the Gazelle Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. The slow Nostalgic rallied through the rail to pass Venti Valentine for the win, while Venti Valentine had no visible pace or trip excuse to let that happen.
Then in the Kentucky Oaks, Venti Valentine tried to stalk the fast pace early on, but came up empty and folded to last by 27 lengths.
Considering Venti Valentine’s Demoiselle effort and explosive Busher Invitational victory this year, she could become a major player again. The only catch is that Venti Valentine probably does not want nine furlongs or farther. She seems to hang in the stretch in longer routes.
Since Venti Valentine is cutting back to 1 1/16 miles in this spot, she poses an obvious threat to Juju’s Map’s comeback parade.
Down the line, maybe Venti Valentine can knock heads with Echo Zulu and Matareya in the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, while Juju’s Map can focus on routes such as the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). For now, the two talented fillies meet in the Mother Goose, and picking only one filly is hard.
If pressed for a selection, Venti Valentine might hold a value edge if the ugly Kentucky Oaks running line scares away bettors. Watch the board.