A Tale of Two Histories – Impel or Just F Y I

April 3, 2024

Just F Y I scoring the BC Juvenile Fillies. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Who is more likely to win?

By Laura Pugh

It may not be the largest field, but the Grade 1, Central Bank Ashland Stakes, at Keeneland Racecourse has an abundance of quality. Featuring multiple graded stakes winners, led by last year’s Juvenile Filly Champion, Just F Y I.

While there are plenty of talented fillies in this race that are proven in stakes company, Just F Y I’s stiffest challenge may come from the unbeaten Impel, an impressive allowance winning daughter of Quality Road. 

Just F Y I is making her 2024 career debut in the Ashland Stakes, something only a couple fillies have tried in recent history. Rachel’s Valentina finished second in her attempt, before finishing sixth in the Kentucky Oaks, her next start, in 2015. Then in 2021, we saw Malathaat make her seasonal bow in this race a winning one, setting her up for success in that year’s Kentucky Oaks. 

Impel, on the other hand, has already made two starts in 2024. While waiting until a horse’s sophomore year to make their career bow used to be rare, it’s becoming more and more commonplace. Still, this will represent a massive step up in class for the imposing Brad Cox filly. 

In the past 25 years, only one horse has won the Ashland in their seasonal debut, just as only one horse has won the race with no prior stakes experience. In 2019, Out for a Spin bested Jaywalk, the reigning Juvenile Filly Champion, at odds of 52-1. In 2019, Malathaat, after missing her intended season debut due to the passing of Sheik

With both Fillies trying to replicate history for the second time in their respective areas, the question becomes, who has the best chance to do it?

Both Just F Y I and Impel are undefeated, though the former has more experience in grade stakes company, giving her an edge in that department. However, Impel has two starts on the year, compared to Just F Y I making her first start in over 20 weeks. This gives Impel the fitness edge.

Both fillies have similar running styles, preferring to run on the lead, or pressing it. Since neither need the lead, it’s likely that they will sit off Standoutsensation, who will want the lead. One might think that Just F Y I could be rusty off of her long layoff, and that Cox being the beast that he is with training fillies, gives Impel the slight edge. Problem with that is, Bill Mott, Just F Y I’s trainer has an excellent record when it comes to horses returning from 61-180 day layoffs. His win percentage with that timeframe being an incredible 30%. 

What is even more impressive, is that when you narrow the range to 140-160 day, Just F Y I will have been off for 154 this past Saturday, Mott has 38%-win rating, landing in the money 63% of the time. As good as this looks though, Brad Cox is labeled as “hot” by TimeformUS for the last two weeks. In the last three months, the pair has teamed up 47 times. They have a 33%-win rate and an incredible 74% ITM rate.  

In terms of speed figures, they are either very evenly matched or showing Impel with the edge. TimeformUS has both fillies earning a career best number of 105, both coming in their last starts. Just F Y I earned that number under some urging while Impel didn’t appear to get out of second gear when earning her 105. The Beyer numbers tell a different story, giving Impel quite a big edge, with her top Beyer Speed Figure coming in at a 91 compared to Just F Y I’s 79. 

Both fillies are up against history, trying to duplicate feats that have only occurred once in the past 25 years. On most accounts, both fillies appear dead even, but I believe the slight edge belongs to Impel. As good as Mott is off the layoff, Cox, especially when teamed up with Geroux, is tough to beat. 

She may not have the experience, but the statistics say that Impel is the more likely of the two fillies to duplicate history… even if it is only by a slight margin. 

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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