Handicappers Debate: 2023 The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park

March 3rd, 2023

Fillies and mares on the turf are featured in this week’s debate, as handicappers Vance Hanson and Ashley Anderson offer differing opinions on Saturday’s $150,000 The Very One (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

The 1 3/8-mile test features a competitive field of 10, including a strong contingent from the barn of trainer Chad Brown.

Vance Hanson: I think the German-bred #4 Mylady (8-1) can be competitive in her debut for Brown. A promising filly in her native land last season, Mylady placed in both the German 1000 Guineas (G2) and German Oaks (G1), and was only beaten 3 1/4 lengths when facing the colts in the German Derby (G1).

Mylady made her North American debut in the E.P. Taylor (G1) at Woodbine in October, and she certainly didn’t get the best of trips. Bounced around at the start, she didn’t settle as kindly as she had in the German Oaks, bid early into a slow pace, and flattened out late in a race that came down to classy rivals Rougir and Moira. If able to revert to closing tactics that are more her style, it will serve her well, and she appears to be working well in advance of this race.

Who do you like Ashley?

Ashley Anderson: Mylady is intriguing in her first start for Brown, but I have to side with stablemate #10 Virginia Joy (5-2), who won this event last season and has four victories from five tries at today’s distance. She failed to factor last out in the 1 3/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) but two back she wired the Flower Bowl (G2) at today’s distance.

She’ll make her six-year-old debut off a more than three-month layoff and will retain the services of four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who’s been red hot the last seven days, going 35-9-5-5 in that span. There’s too much going in Virginia Joy’s favor for me to fade her here.

I am curious if you have any concern with Mylady’s experience over an American track considering this will be just her second start in North America?

Vance Hanson: It’s possible Mylady still needs some additional experience racing over here, and perhaps will be more effective later in the year. However, Brown has had vast success at getting these European imports adapted very quickly, and she figures to offer value in this race.

Virginia Joy is a logical threat to defend her title here for the reasons you stated. I was a fan of hers at the beginning of her time in the U.S. However, she’s proven somewhat enigmatic for my tastes, never seeming to fire when I most wanted her to and surprising when least expected. The expected short price will deter me from biting this time.

Although she won The Very One from off the pace last year, her two interim successes were achieved after setting very pedestrian fractions. Is that a concern for you, given the presence of other speed in the field?

Ashley Anderson: Her E1 and E2 Speed figures in her two most recent victories when setting the early pace are a concern, but Virginia Joy has proven more than once she can employ pace-tracking tactics to reach the winner’s circle, and when Ortiz is in the saddle, she’s been most successful. The jockey guided her in three of her last four wins, and I’m confident he’ll get the ride he’s looking for while breaking from the outside post. While Virginia Joy was far back in eighth last out at the Breeders’ Cup, she still managed to post the highest last race speed rating among today’s field (105), with a 101 Late Pace rating, so she’s more than capable of keeping up with the speed horses on Saturday.

You certainly make good points about Mylady. It'll be interesting to see which Brown runner performs best on Saturday!

Editor’s Note: We will keep tabs of our handicapper’s picks and provide a scorecard in the coming weeks.