The Iroquois S. (G3) and Pocahontas S. (G3) may have been the headliners on Saturday at Churchill Downs, but three other stakes on the evening card produced exciting finishes with potential Breeders’ Cup implications.
The tightest battle came in the $400,000 Locust Grove S. (G3). Half a dozen fillies and mares squared off over 1 1/16 miles, with 2020 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil favored at 3-5 to claim top honors.
Shedaresthedevil delivered as expected, but only at the conclusion of a heart-pounding stretch drive. After setting restrained fractions of :24.32, :48.30, and 1:12.17 under jockey Florent Geroux, Shedaresthedevil was challenged down the lane by the Grade 1-placed Crystal Ball, who unfurled a determined bid along the inside. In the end, the wire came just in time for Shedaresthedevil, who held on to win by a neck while Envoutante, Matera, Our Super Freak, and High Regard trailed the field.
Brad Cox trains Shedaresthedevil, who stopped the clock in 1:42.86 to record her fourth graded win from five starts this season. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) looms as a logical autumn target for the accomplished four-year-old daughter of Daredevil.
“She’s a very classy filly,” said Geroux. “Tonight we got the lead and she was moving comfortably. This was a good prep race for the Breeders’ Cup. She has seven weeks until then and I think she’ll get a lot out of this race.”
A similarly close finish unfolded in the $300,000 Open Mind S., a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. Sconsin, a two-time graded stakes winner at Churchill Downs, reiterated her affinity for the local oval by snatching a determined victory. After settling in fourth place behind fast fractions of :21.64 and :44.77, Sconsin forged to the front in midstretch and dug deep to turn back a challenge from 4-5 favorite Bell’s the One and prevail by half a length.
Sconsin reached the finish line in a quick 1:08.75 while Bell’s the One pulled four lengths clear of Mundaye Call, Jungle Juice, and Ain’t No Elmers. The winner—an emerging threat for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1)—was ridden to victory by Tyler Gaffalione on behalf of trainer Greg Foley.
“A lot of credit has to go to Greg and his team for getting this filly ready to go tonight,” said Gaffalione. “She was very sharp and we got into a good position early. There was some pace in front early. She dug in well late to hold off (Bell’s the One). It was a really strong effort tonight.”
In between the Open Mind and the Locust Grove came the six-furlong, $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society S. Bettors preferred the chances of Bango, a two-time stakes winner during the 2021 spring meet at Churchill Downs. But the even-money favorite could only settle for third place as front-running Just Might held off deep-closing Endorsed to win by three-quarters of a length, with Mighty Mischief, Dennis’ Moment, and Derby Date farther back in the field.
“He got into stride quickly and was on the early pace,” said winning jockey Rafael Bejarano. “He traveled well and even though we were going fast he was doing it comfortably. In deep stretch there were other horses coming to us but he was very game. He’s been in great form this year.”
Just Might stopped the timer in 1:08.71 after setting rapid fractions of :21.81 and :44.75, a testament to his speed and talent. The five-year-old son of Justin Phillip has won four consecutive stakes under the care of trainer Michelle Lovell, in the process emerging as a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).