Analysis: Use these 3 runners in Falls City Stakes

Analysis: Use these 3 runners in Falls City Stakes
Photo: Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire

Army Wife competes against older fillies and mares for the first time Thursday in the Grade 2, $500,000 Falls City Stakes at Churchill Downs. Obligatory met the same challenge successfully last weekend on this course, although her win came against Grade 3 opponents.

In this spot, Army Wife faces Grade 2 older fillies and mares. With the year winding down, it becomes less of a concern from a handicapping standpoint to see 3-year-old fillies step out of their age group for the first time, especially if they endured a full campaign.

Army Wife has competed six times this season. In the modern era, that is a typical amount of races for a graded-stakes-quality runner.    

In her seventh start this season, Army Wife does not meet any standouts, although each of these older fillies and mares are capable of a big performance on the right day. The problem with some of them is reliability in the win column.

The familiar closer Bonny South enters this race after finishing second in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) and third in the Spinster Stakes (G1) against fairly stiff competition including Letruska, who won both races. Bonny South came within a half-length of Letruska in the former race. 

But Bonny South owns only one win this year. She began the season by taking Doubledogdare Stakes (G2) at Keeneland in April, but she did not pick up another 2021 win afterward. Also, Bonny South’s closing style makes her vulnerable to the pace scenario if it is soft.

Speaking of a soft pace, Envoutante won this race last year by six lengths over Bonny South after securing an uncontested lead and setting a crawling pace with opening fractions of 24.25 and 48.95. 

In six starts this year, though, Envoutante’s lone win came in the local Shawnee Stakes (G3) by 4 1/4 lengths over Miss Bigly. In Envoutante’s most recent start, she faded to fifth in the Spinster Stakes after initially chasing Letruska in second.

Perhaps Envoutante deserves a pass for some of those losses because of the competition. Like Bonny South, she had been facing good runners all season. But why did she fade to fifth in the Spinster rather than holding second?

Crystal Ball faded to fourth in the Spinster after coming within 1 1/2 lengths of Letruska at one point. Unlike Bonny South and Envoutante, Crystal Ball shows three wins this season. Two of those wins came in optional claiming races under trainer Bob Baffert. Under Rodolphe Brisset, her lone win came in the Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown in June.

Also, Crystal Ball owns useful tactical speed. Both Envoutante and Crystal Ball can keep the expected pacesetter Cheetara within range, which makes them both win threats despite their unreliability on top. 

Still, Army Wife is the preferred option because of her consistent record this season against quality 3-year-old fillies and the potential to improve.

Army Wife owns three wins this season. Two of those came in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) and Iowa Oaks (G3), and she won those stakes races by good margins of 2 3/4 lengths and 3 3/4 lengths. 

And this filly is no stranger to Grade 1 competition. In Army Wife’s most recent start, she made a mild move to finish third by three lengths in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing. The winner Clairiere went on to run fourth by 3/4 of length in a wild finish to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Two starts ago, Army Wife briefly took the lead in the Alabama Stakes (G1), before letting Kentucky Oaks champion Malathaat and Clairiere pass her in the stretch. Army Wife lost by only two lengths to Malathaat, and Malathaat went on to finish third by half a length in the Distaff.  

In other words, Army Wife is not far off the best 3-year-old fillies, and two of those fillies fared well in the Distaff earlier this month.

Army Wife does not own the speed of Crystal Ball or Envoutante, but she can sit in mid-pack in a nine-furlong race. It is a great sign to see Joel Rosario taking the call again for trainer Michael Maker. Rosario guided this filly in both the Black-Eyed Susan and Iowa Oaks victories.

Although picking a top choice is not easy, Army Wife is the one.

The low price to ignore on top is Bonny South, who likely is at a pace disadvantage if she tries to close from last or near there again.

In multi-race wagers, use Army Wife, Crystal Ball and Envoutante.

If Army Wife somehow drifts up to 3-1 in wagering, then consider a simple win and place bet. At 5-2, a win bet and exacta wheel or two is in order.

Top selection: No. 5 Army Wife (5-2)

Contenders: No. 1 Crystal Ball (7-2), No. 4 Envoutante (7-2)


Win: 5

Exacta wheel: 5 / 1,4

Exacta wheel: 1,4 / 5 (for less money)

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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