Grade 3 Chicago Stakes trends and field analysis

June 20th, 2024

The 34th running of the Chicago S. (G3) will be held at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 22, with Grade 1 winners Vahva and Society the class of the five-horse field.

First run in 1986 at Arlington Park, the Chicago is a Grade 3 event for fillies and mares aged four years old and up, and has been contested at seven furlongs throughout the history of the race. 

Now the permanent home of the Chicago, Churchill Downs previously hosted the sprint stakes in 2017 and 2022. The event was temporarily run at Ellis Park in 2023, when Steve Asmussen trainee Society reached the winner’s circle in a record time of 1:20.54.

Not only does Society own the speed record, but she also won the Chicago by a record margin of 10 1/2 lengths. The next-fastest Chicago time occurred in 2018, when Hotshot Anna crossed the wire in 1:20.93.

A number of trainers have won the Chicago twice, including Donald R. Winfree, who notched back-to-back victories in 1986 and 1987 with Lazer Show. As for winningest jockey, Pat Day (1986, 1987, 1990), Craig Perret (1991, 2001, 2003), and Rene R. Douglas (2002, 2004, 2008) are in a three-way tie for most victories.

Ten-year trends in Chicago S.

Out of the last 10 runnings, no jockey has been able to reproduce a win in the Chicago, and Bret Calhoun is the only repeat winning trainer, with a trip to the winner’s circle in both 2013 (Cozze Up Lady) and 2017 (Finley’sluckycharm). The race was not held in 2015 or 2020.

In the last decade, post-time favorites have won twice, in 2016 and 2017. The longest shot to win since 2014 was My Mertie at 34-1 in 2019, and Irish-bred Abby Hatcher was a 19-1 upsetter in 2021.

Now that we've glanced at some of the recent Chicago trends, let's look at each runner in the 2024 field.

Chicago Stakes horse-by-horse analysis

Race 7, Chicago S. (G3), seven furlongs, 4yo and up fillies and mares (3:51 p.m. ET)

#1 Society (4-5) — The lone early speed in the field, last year’s winner of the Chicago should get an uncontested lead from the rail. The Gun Runner mare will return off a more than seven-month layoff after finishing fourth to Goodnight Olive in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita in November. Two back, she won the Pink Ribbon S. by 5 1/2 lengths at Charles Town and recorded a 101 Brisnet Speed figure. Her start prior to the Pink Ribbon, Society romped to a 10-length win in the Chicago with a season-best 105 BRIS figure and a similar 105 Late Pace rating. The Steve Asmussen pupil is 2-for-3 at Churchill, with her lone loss coming in the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne (G1) last May. Regular rider Tyler Gaffalione will retain the mount and is winning at a 19% clip this meet. Asmussen is also doing well at Churchill with a 22% win rate. Society is 5-3-0-1 from today’s distance, and she put in a pair of sharp workouts at Churchill in June.

#2 Royal Spa (15-1) — The Violence filly most recently finished seventh by 4 1/4 lengths when jumping back up to graded stakes company in the six-furlong Winning Colors (G3). The Rodolphe Brisset trainee is 4-for-10 for her career and has yet to score a stakes victory. Florent Geroux will pick up the mount and strikes at a 22% rate in sprints. The four-year-old Kentucky bred has posted speed figures between 86 and 91 in four starts this season and will need improvement to overtake the top contenders in this field.

#3 Vahva (1-1) — Another Gun Runner daughter, Vahva has been on a tear since last August, with three victories from four starts and a half-length second in the Madison (G1) two back. Trainer Cherie DeVaux is 22-6-5-1 this meet, and Irad Ortiz Jr. (23% win rate at Churchill) will stay in the saddle. Vahva recorded a career-best 103 BRIS figure last out when winning the Derby City Distaff (G1) by two lengths on May 4. The runner-up, Alva Starr, came back to win the Rehoboth S. at Delaware Park, and the sixth-place finisher returned to win a stake at Lone Star. Vahva is not only a horse for the course, with a 3-for-3 record at Churchill, but she’s also a distance specialist, with four wins and two seconds from six career starts at seven furlongs. She’ll race for the first time in 49 days and put in a bullet five-furlong work at Keeneland on June 8.

#4 Chi Town Lady (10-1) — The five-year-old won two back in the six-furlong Minaret S. at Tampa Bay Downs, then stretched out to seven furlongs for the Derby City Distaff and finished fourth. The Verrazano mare is just 1-for-5 from today’s distance and 0-for-2 at Churchill. Wesley Ward is a 28% winner at Churchill and finishes in the money 54% of the time with horses coming off layoffs of 46-90 days. Jose Ortiz Jr. will pick up the mount. Chi Town Lady's most recent Late Pace figure was a 104; she can close late to contend for a minor award.

#5 Positano Sunset (15-1) — Goldencents four-year-old finished a four-length sixth in the Winning Colors with an 87 BRIS figure and will need to step forward third start off the layoff to contend with the likes of Vahva and Society. Ian Wilkes is a 10% winner in sprints and just a 6% winner in graded stakes. Julien Leparoux will retain the mount. Filly has one win from four starts at Churchill, where she broke her maiden in her third career start.