Seeking an Upset in the Roxelana Stakes

Seeking an Upset in the Roxelana Stakes

By J. Keeler Johnson (“Keelerman”) Twitter: @J_Keelerman

On a relatively quiet weekend
of racing in North America, one of the most intriguing events on the agenda is
Saturday’s $110,000 Roxelana Stakes at
Churchill Downs.

At first glance, the 6
1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares isn’t the most appealing betting race.
Just six horses have been entered, with #5
(1-1) a heavy favorite on the morning line. Isn’t this the type of
race where we simply single the obvious choice in multi-race wagers and move

But dig a little deeper, and
the Roxelana becomes more appealing—more competitive. Because truthfully, I’m not
sure Sconsin is as unbeatable as she appears at first glance.

That’s not to say Sconsin lacks
impressive credentials. Three of her four victories have come at Churchill
Downs, where the daughter of Include boasts an impressive 5-3-1-0 resume. After
rallying to win the seven-furlong Eight Belles S. (G3) at Churchill last fall,
Sconsin returned to her favorite track this spring to finish second in the
Derby City Distaff (G1) and first in the Winning Colors S. (G3).

But Sconsin has been the
beneficiary of pace meltdowns on more than one occasion. In the Eight Belles,
for example, she settled more than eight lengths behind hot fractions of :22.11
and :44.14 before swooping to victory by 2 1/4 lengths. Then in the Winning
Colors, Sconsin rated casually behind splits of :21.72 and :44.55 before
rolling past the leaders to score by 3 1/4 lengths.

Sconsin might not receive as
favorable a setup in the Roxelana. On paper, there isn’t a ton of speed in the entries.
Last year’s Madison S. (G1) winner #4
Bell’s the One
(7-5) is a deep closer who enters off a fourth-place finish
in the Derby City Distaff. #2 Miss
(12-1) prefers to stalk the pace or rally from mid-pack. #1 Shesomajestic (20-1) and #6 Jungle Juice (30-1) have tactical
speed, but although they’ve been known to set the pace on occasion, neither can
be viewed as a pure front-runner.

This could set the stage for
#4 Four Graces (7-2) to secure a
favorable trip in her 2021 debut. The daughter of Majesticperfection showed
significant promise as a three-year-old, winning her first four sprint starts
by a minimum of 1 1/2 lengths. She put her speed to especially good use in the Beaumont
S. (G3) at Keeneland, setting fractions of :22.29, :44.37, and 1:08.83 before
drawing off to beat Sconsin by 4 3/4 lengths.

Sconsin subsequently got burned
up dueling for the lead in the Eight Belles, where she fought on bravely to
finish second behind Sconsin. This effort seemed to take a toll on Sconsin, as
she failed to flash her typical early speed when fading to seventh in Keeneland’s
Raven Run S. (G2) to conclude her 2021 campaign.

On the bright side, Four
Graces has been freshened since the Raven Run, and she’s come back to post an
eye-catching series of workouts at Churchill Downs. With eight timed breezes
under her belt since the beginning of April (capped off by six furlongs in 1:11
2/5), Four Graces should be fit for a strong effort off the break. Keep in
mind, trainer Ian Wilkes wins at a respectable 15% rate with horses returning
from layoffs of 90 days or more, exceeding his overall 11% win rate.

So my hope for Saturday is
to see Four Graces come out running and secure the early lead through a modest opening
quarter-mile split. Unless the pace intensifies during the second quarter—and on
paper, there’s no reason to think it will—Four Graces can kick on down the
homestretch to spring a surprise at 7-2.

Sconsin is a deserving
choice to round out the exacta, while trifecta tickets can add Bell’s the One
for third place. Winner of the Winning Colors S. (G3) and Derby City Distaff
(G1) at Churchill Dowens last summer, Bell’s the One was compromised by a slow
pace when attempting to defend her Derby City Distaff title seven weeks ago.
But the field was deep; in addition to Sconsin, the race featured champion female
sprinter Gamine and next-out Bed o’ Roses S. (G2) winner Estilo Talentoso. And even
in defeat, Bell’s the One earned her sixth straight triple-digit Brisnet Late
Pace rating. She’ll be an exotics player if she runs her typical race on


1st: Four Graces

2nd: Sconsin

3rd: Bell’s the One

Now it’s your turn! Who do
you like in the Roxelana Stakes?


Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contests page—there’s a new challenge every week!

J. Keeler Johnson (also known as “Keelerman”) is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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