LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Trainer Michelle Lovell found that making just a small change in equipment could make a big difference for Roddy Harrison’s 5-year-old mare, Change of Control.
While wintering at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Lovell decided to race the mare without blinkers, which she had been wearing. In March, Change of Control narrowly lost an allowance event at Fair Grounds, then moved north to capture the Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland on April 10.
Now, she’ll be one of the favorites in the 11th running of the $150,000 Unbridled Sidney, the 5 ½-furlong co-feature on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs on Thursday. The race drew a full field of 10 fillies and mares, along with three also-eligibles.
She’ll start from the No. 2 post with jockey Colby Hernandez, just outside of Chris Coleman and Brad King’s Into Mystic, who finished a length behind her in the Giant’s Causeway.
“She handled the yielding turf at Keeneland really well, which was surprising,” said Lovell. “We did make one equipment change two races back, and that seemed to help her quite a lot. She was wearing blinkers, but she didn’t really need them, and I wanted to take a chance with her and take them off. So we took them off, to see if it would move her forward a little bit. And it seemed to help her, quite a lot. It was a great change.”
With just three weeks between races, Lovell hasn’t had to give Change of Control any major workouts.
“She really loves Churchill’s turf,” she said of Change of Control, who is 3-1-1 in six starts at Churchill. “She’s coming off of a really nice win, probably her best race to date, and she’s coming out of it really good, mentally and physically. She’s so happy on this track, it’s hard to contain her.”
In the Giant’s Causeway, Into Mystic was the even-money favorite. This time, the Brendan Walsh-trained 5-year-old, who will have Florent Geroux riding, and Change of Control are both 4-1 on the morning line.
“She ran well at Keeneland,” said Walsh. “The race didn’t really set up for her great. She was beaten by a nice filly, and she came out of it good. So we’ll try her back against her again in the Unbridled Sidney.”
Since finishing 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI) at Keeneland last November, Into Mystic has a win and three seconds in stakes company.
“She’s never let us down,” said Walsh. “The Breeders’ Cup, you just draw a line through, because she got caught on the front end, and it was just too fast. Outside of that, she’s never run a bad race since we’ve had her.
“It’s a full field with 10,” he added, “but I think she can handle it.”
Team Valor’s Oleksandra, an Australian-bred 7-year-old trained by Neil Drysdale, was made the slight 3-1 favorite on the morning line. The mare, in foal to Into Mischief, will start from the No. 4 post with jockey Joel Rosario. The Grade I-winner is being pointed to a possible repeat triumph in the Jaipur Stakes at Belmont, before her retirement, Team Valor announced in late March. She’ll be offered at the Keeneland November Sale to dissolve the partnership.
The Unbridled Sidney also includes Three Diamonds Farm’s Jakarta, who finished 4 ½ lengths behind Into Mystic in third place at Keeneland. Starting from post six, Luis Saezwill again ride Jakarta for trainer Mike Maker.
The field for the Unbridled Sidney, with riders, weights and morning line, from the inside, is:
1. Into Mystic (Geroux, 124 pounds, 4-1)
2. Change of Control (Colby Hernandez, 124, 4-1)
3. Lady Grace (Tyler Gaffalione, 122, 12-1)
4. Oleksandra (AUS) (Joel Rosario, 122, 3-1)
5. Foxxy Belle (Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 12-1)
6. Jakarta (Saez, 122, 5-1)
7. Winning Envelope (Javier Castellano, 122, 12-1)
8. She’sonthewarpath (Adam Beschizza, 122, 15-1)
9. Yes It’s Ginger (Brian Hernandez Jr., 122, 15-1)
Also eligible: A Bit of Both (Santana Jr., 122), Ambassador Luna (Julien Leparoux, 122) and Fashionable Lady (Drayden Van Dyke, 122).
The Unbridled Sidney will share the spotlight on Thursday’s 11-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern) with the 16th running of the $130,000 Opening Verse Overnight Stakes for 4-year-olds and up going a mile on the turf. The Unbridled Sidney will go as the 10th race with a 5:45 p.m. post time.
Churchill Downs Press Release
Photo: Change of Control wins the 2021 Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland in April, (Keeneland/Coady Photography)