Winning Colors Stakes trends and field analysis

May 24th, 2024

On Memorial Day, May 27, Churchill Downs will host the 21st edition of the Winning Colors S. (G3), a six-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares that was first run in 2004 at the famed Louisville racetrack.

Steve Asmussen won the first running with Lady Tak, a multiple graded stakes scorer who counted the 2003 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), the Test (G1), and Ballerina H. (G1) among her victories.

Asmussen also won the 20th iteration of the Winning Colors with the late champion two-year-old filly Echo Zulu, who went on to win the Honorable Miss (G2) and Ballerina in 2023.

In total, Asmussen has three wins in the Winning Colors — the 2015 running with Street Story is his other — and is one trip to the winner’s circle shy of the record held by Bret Calhoun, who won back to back with Dubai Majesty in 2009 and 2010, and with Beat the Blues (2012) and Finley’sluckycharm (2017). Calhoun is not entered in the 2024 Winning Colors, but Asmussen has a solid win candidate in graded stakes placed #3 Clearly Unhinged ().

The winningest jockey in the Winning Colors is Julien Leparoux, who got his first win aboard the Tom Amoss-trained Graeme Six in 2008, then triumphed in 2014 with Rusty Arnold’s Southern Honey, and in 2016 with Mark Casse’s Diva Express. In 2024, Leparoux will have the mount on Positano Sunset, winner of the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park last August.

Ten-year trends in Winning Colors

In the last decade, there has been a four-way tie for most victories by a jockey, with two apiece by Leparoux, Florent Geroux (2015, 2023), Brian Hernandez Jr. (2017, 2018), and Tyler Gaffalione (2021, 2022 with back-to-back winner Sconsin).

Arnold, Asmussen, and Greg Foley are the only multiple-winning trainers in the last 10 years, each with two victories as well.

The fastest winning time since 2014 is 1:08.18 in 2022 by Sconsin, who clocked the second-fastest time of any winner in the Winning Colors. The record is held by Dubai Majesty with a 1:08.07 finish time in 2010. Five of the top six finishing times in the race have occurred since 2013, with the fourth-best time occurring in a dead heat in 2016 when Diva Express and I’m a Looker crossed the wire in 1:08.49.

Favorites have won four of the last 10 runnings, including the last two, and the longest shot to win in the last decade was Bell’s the One at 13-1 in 2020.

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

Winning Colors Stakes horse-by-horse analysis

Race 8, Winning Colors S. (G3), six furlongs, fillies and mares 4yo and up (4:22 p.m. ET)

#1 Royal Spa (8-1) — The Violence filly won last out by four lengths in a seven-furlong allowance optional claimer at Keeneland and posted a 91 Brisnet Speed rating with a 102 Late Pace rating while beating 11 rivals. Her 121 Class Rating is the best last-out rating of any runner in the field. With so much speed signed on, she has a chance to rally late into a hot pace and will get Ricardo Santana Jr. back in the saddle. Rodolphe Brisset is a 21% winner with sprints and 3-for-6 to start the meet. Royal Spa is 2-for-2 at Churchill and has a 4-2-1-1 record from today's distance.

#2 B G Warrior (12-1) — The early pacesetter is switching back to dirt for the first time in six starts after racing on turf and all-weather. The four-year-old won two back in a six-furlong stakes on Turfway's Tapeta and put in a sharp workout May 17 at the track, but she's 0-for-4 at Churchill and just 1-for-11 racing six furlongs on the dirt. Hugo Andrade is a 21% going from turf to dirt and an 11% winner in sprints. Regular rider Albin Jimenez will retain the mount.

#3 Clearly Unhinged (4-1) — Into Mischief filly won in her first start since transferring to Steve Asmussen's barn and romped to a 2 3/4-length victory in a five-furlong allowance optional claimer taken off Churchill's turf while recording a 98 BRIS figure, the highest last race speed rating among the field. Asmussen is a 19% winner with horses that won their last race and an 18% winner second off the layoff. Clearly Unhinged will move back up to graded stakes company and finished a head second to Pretty Mischievous in the Test (G1) at Saratoga and was second to Kirstenbosch in the Chillingworth (G3) as a three-year-old.

#4 Miss Arlington (20-1) — Four-year-old won three back at today's distance in an allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds, then finished far back in seventh in the American Beauty S. at Oaklawn in February. She returned off a two-month layoff and finished sixth in a 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance at Keeneland and will switch back to dirt while shipping back to Churchill, where she's 4-1-0-2. The Mark Valeski filly is also 10-2-1-3 from six furlongs and put in a sharp workout May 11. Her recent speed figures are a bit light, and she may find the competition a bit too much here.

#5 Spirit Wind (5-1) — Early pacesetter had the lead through the second call but faltered to finish sixth in the seven-furlong Derby City Distaff (G1) last out. Two back, she set the early pace in the Hurricane Bertie S. (G3) before finishing three-quarters of a length in third to Red Carpet Ready. The five-year-old mare will make her third start since transferring to Saffie Joseph, who's a 25% winner with sprints, and Jose Ortiz will retain the mount. He's 16-4-4-1 the last week. Spirit Wind is also 4-for-5 from today's distance with a field-best 97 BRIS figure at six furlongs.

#6 Positano Sunset (12-1) — Late runner by Goldencents was a three-length fourth last out in the Roxelana Overnight S. and will look to improve second start off the layoff. Julien Leparoux will stay in the saddle and won two back with the four-year-old in the Audubon S. at Ellis Park. Trainer Ian Wilkes is a 27% winner this meet but just a 6% winner in graded stakes and a 7% winner second start off the bench.

#7 Unsung Melody (20-1) — Early speed type last won six starts back in a six-furlong allowance at Ellis Park. The Maclean's Music filly is eligible to improve third start off the layoff for John Ortiz, who's an 18% winner with sprints but a 5% winner in graded stakes. Jaime Torres will pick up the mount and strikes at a 14% rate in sprints. The four-year-old filly is 3-0-1-0 at Churchill and 8-2-2-0 from today's distance.

#8 Backyard Money (20-1) — Midshipman five-year-old was far back in eighth in last two starts, and she's 0-for-7 at Churchill. This D. Wayne Lukas runner was last seen racing at the track on May 17 and was last of eight by 22 lengths in an allowance optional claimer. Gabriel Saez will pick up the mount.

#9 Happy Am I (8-1) — Runhappy filly had the lead in the stretch but yielded to finish a length third in the Roxelana last out, snapping a three-win streak. Dallas Stewart is a 15% winner with sprints but an 8% winner in graded stakes. Brian Hernandez Jr. will inherit the ride and is winning at a 17% rate this meet. The four-year-old has a win and a third from four starts at Churchill and a win and a third from three starts at six furlongs.

#10 Leeloo (15-1) — Practical Joke mare won two back in a six-furlong allowance optional claimer with a 94 BRIS figure, then finished fourth in the six-furlong Matron S. last out. She will return off a nearly two-month layoff for Nacho Correas, a 16% winner off layoffs of 46-90 days, and Luis Saez will pick up the mount. He's 11-3-2-1 the last seven days. The five-year-old posted a bullet four-furlong workout at Keeneland May 18.

#11 Dazzling Blue (5-2) — Morning line favorite began her career with a three-win streak but has since placed in her last four while facing stakes company. The Brad Cox pupil was beaten a neck as the favorite last out in the Roxelana in her first start in six months and can improve second off the layoff. Florent Geroux will retain the mount and has a 19% win rate this meet. The Into Mischief filly is 3-2-1-0 at Churchill and 5-3-1-1 at today's distance. Her first three victories came in gate-to-wire fashion and she has not won without the early lead so far in her career.