2/16/2021 – Elle Z with jockey Mitchell Murrill captures the 78th running of the $75,000 Mardi Gras Stakes at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Jan Brubaker



There were no fans in the stands, the temperatures were frigid, and beads were scarce, but as always, the traditional Fat Tuesday card at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots was highlighted by the 78th running of the Mardi Gras Stakes, and M Bar O’s Elle Z turned it into a one-horse show.

With an abundance of rain in the days leading up and record-low temperatures on Tuesday, there was little doubt the Mardi Gras would be taken off the grass. Run over 5 ½ furlongs of fast track, only four of the 10 programmed runners stayed in, and the race was over almost as soon as it started.

With Mitchell Murrill aboard for trainer Chris Hartman, who was stranded in Hot Springs, Arkansas due to the wintery conditions there, the 4-year-old daughter of City Zip wasted no time going to the lead. She led while in the clear through fractions of 23.07 and 45.95 before stopping the timer in 1:03.81, winning by an increasing 4 lengths as the 2.30-1 second choice. Compromised slightly by an awkward start from the rail, .70-1 favorite Into Mystic rallied late for second over She’s My Gem in third. Misty Day completed the order of finish.

“Yeah man, she’s just one dimension,” Murrill said. “She goes out there and gives it 110% every time. Being a little match race as it was, I was a little iffy as to what (favored) Into Mystic was going to do. As it turned out, it worked in my favor getting out on the lead and stretching them out a little bit and she came through for us. Working her in the mornings you couldn’t tell she was a turf horse at all. She definitely has a style that suits both surfaces.”

The 13-1 upset winner of the Pan Zareta while sprinting on turf earlier in the meet, Elle Z would return to finish second behind Into Mystic under similar circumstances in the Nelson J. Menard last time out. They’ve made up the exacta three times at the meet, with Elle Z now holding a 2-1 advantage over Into Mystic.

Elle Z broke her maiden at first asking in the slop at Will Rogers Downs in May, but she faded to fourth at Churchill in her only previous try on a fast track. With the win, Elle Z enhanced her career record to 9-5-1-0 with earnings of $195,524.

“Mardi Gras is a little different this year,” Murrill said. “Hopefully next year we can have all the people out here and celebrate the way you’re supposed to.”





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