The $500,000, Grade 2 Falls City Stakes on Thanksgiving day at Churchill Downs drew a nice group that includes last year’s runaway winner Envoutante among a field of seven fillies and mares (female Thoroughbreds).
While she has enjoyed a solid year in 2021 with one stakes victory and more than $290,000 in earnings, #4 Envoutante is tied with another contender as the third choice on the morning line at 7-2 odds.
The favorite according to the track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, a role he has held for a remarkable 47 years, is #6 Bonny South at 9-5 odds.
Bonny South opened 2021 with a stakes win at Keeneland in April, but the 4-year-old Munnings filly is winless in four races since then, albeit against elite competition. She has finished second twice in Grade 1 races and ran third most recently in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 10 for trainer Brad Cox. Bonny South finished second to Envoutante in last year’s Falls City Stakes in her lone previous start on the main track at Churchill Downs.
The 5-2 second choice according to Battaglia is 3-year-old filly Army Wife, who will be facing older females for the first time in the Falls City.
#5 Army Wife has had a very nice sophomore season with three wins in six starts, including back-to-back wins in the Grade 2 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes in May and the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks in July. More recently, she finished third in a pair of Grade 1 races restricted to 3-year-old fillies – the Alabama Stakes in August, won by Malathaat; and the Cotillion Stakes in September, won by Clairiere. Malathaat and Clairiere subsequently finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which flattered the form of Army Wife.
Army Wife was freshened after the Sept. 25 Cotillion. She’s been working well in Louisville at the training center at Churchill and could run a big race with a full two months of rest for a jockey-trainer combo (Joel Rosario and Mike Maker) winning at a very appealing 33%. The challenge of facing older females for the first time is not an insignificant hurdle, but I think this talented filly is up to the task and can get the job done at Churchill, where she has one win and one second-place finish in two starts on the main track.
Both #4 Envoutante and #1 Crystal Ball are listed at 7-2 on the morning line.
Envoutante has won one of six starts this year – the Shawnee Stakes at Churchill in May – and she really seems to like the main track at Churchill. She’s posted three wins, one second, and two thirds in six races on this track and she ran a career-best 118 Equibase Speed Figure last year in the Falls City.
Like Envoutante and Bonny South, Crystal Ball comes out of the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes Oct. 10 at Keeneland, which was won by Letruska, the front-runner for champion older female. Bonny South was third in the Spinster with Crystal Ball fourth and Envoutante fifth, but only 2 ¾ lengths separated the trio.
Grade 1-placed as a 3-year-old, Crystal Ball opened the year with three straight wins, including her first stakes victory. She then was beaten by less than a length in both the Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes in July at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Locust Grove Stakes Sept. 18 at Churchill before the unplaced finish in the Spinster. I believe this distance is her best and Crystal Ball has a win and a second in two races at Churchill, so she also has a chance to run a big one in the Falls City.
Army Wife is my top choice for the Falls City and I’ll bet her to win at 5-2 odds or higher. If she is less than 5-2, I’ll try an exacta strategy with Crystal Ball to try to turn a profit.
Main Betting Strategy on a $20 Budget
$20 to win on #5 Army Wife ($20)
What to say at the betting window:
Churchill Downs, Race 11, $20 to win on #5
Exacta Betting Strategy on a $20 Budget
$10 exacta box: 1,5 ($20)
What to say at the betting window:
Churchill Downs, Race 11, $10 exacta box, 1,5