Choosing only one filly or mare in the Grade 3, $200,000 Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sunday seems like a difficult task. The race is evenly matched with no real pace advantage for any kind of running style, and none of the runners hold a real class advantage either.
For most bettors, this is a spread race in multi-race wagers. Who are the best three fillies or mares to use in the Mint Julep? Bettors can also box these picks, or find an easier race on the card to approach with confidence.
If forced to choose one horse on top, then perhaps Gam’s Mission edges out the other runners because of her impressive runner-up finish in an April 23 Keeneland allowance race. After slow fractions of 24.09 seconds, 49.62 seconds and 1:14.31, Gam’s Mission still dug in as a closer and only lost by a head to Market Rumor.
Gam’s Mission does not need Lasix either, as she won the 2021 Regret Stakes (G3) and ran fourth in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) without it.
The only real concern for Gam’s Mission is whether she receives a fair pace this time. As shown above, she can still close well with a slow pace. But, a moderate to fast one is preferable for her running style. According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, the expected pace scenario is a slow one with the sprinter Ambassador Luna likely left alone the lead.
Petricor is the second preference. After four starts in Europe, this 4-year-old daughter of Frankel made a successful debut in this country by winning an April 24 Keeneland allowance race by a head with a closing inside rush.
When she competed in Europe, Petricor’s old connections thought highly enough of their filly to run her in two Group 3 races. She ran second in the 2021 Prix Vanteaux (G3) at Longchamp and ended up a disappointing sixth in the Prix Betrand de Tarragon (G3) at Chantilly in her last start over there.
Petricor sports some familiar connections in trainer Bill Mott and owner Juddmonte Farms. In addition, jockey Florent Geroux takes the call, and he might benefit from the rail position by saving ground on both turns.
Market Rumor is the third choice on this list. She won the aforementioned April 23 Keeneland allowance over Gam’s Mission after a stretch battle, with a career-high 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure for those who use turf figures.
Even with 18 starts overall, Market Rumor only shows five turf starts. She owns two wins and two seconds on grass, as well as one fourth-place finish.
Maybe Market Rumor is rounding into her best form as a 5-year-old mare. If nothing else, she has been consistent after the surface switch and tries hard.
The public does not typically overbet horses from the Ian Wilkes barn either, which means her morning line odds of 8-1 are likely to stay.
Similar to Petricor, expect Market Rumor to save ground from Post 2. With the right trip, she could squeak out a close win, or at least hit the board.
Without a doubt, the Mint Julep is not an easy handicapping race. Ask 20 handicappers their opinion on this race and there might be 20 different answers to listen to. Try to choose a couple of these entrants and see what happens, or just skip the race altogether.
Exacta box: 1,2,7