Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, July 21

RACE 6: MORNING MATCHA (#2)

Both horses exiting the Churchill Downs maiden race of this same variety could take money in here. Let’s Be Clear was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in that spot, but she didn’t get away from the gate all that well. She got a good trip after that, but it took her a long time to get going in the lane before just missing in a blanket finish. Brad Cox is 24 for 85 (28%, $1.34 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters in dirt sprints over 5 years, so these types are often overbet. I actually prefer Take the Backroads from that race, since Tom Amoss has much stronger statistics with his maiden second time starters in dirt sprints. Yet I’m looking in a different direction for my top pick. There are also a couple of runners exiting an open maiden race at Monmouth. Next Tuesday could go favored here after finishing well behind impressive winner Mainstay, who returned to finish a good second in the G3 Schuylerville last week. This filly ran a pretty professional race and figures to show speed once again. However, I’m more interested in Morning Matcha from that race. She was pretty green that day, as it appeared that she was trying to lug in on the turn and through much of the stretch drive while her rider was trying to coax her to rally wide; did get into gear late. She did eventually get up for third, but could have been second if she had ever straightened out. Trainer Butch Reid is 9 for 35 (26%, $1.95 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters in dirt sprints over 5 years. She’s also one that should appreciate the added ground.

RACE 8: DISCRETIONARY MARQ (#1)

Fast Getaway is obviously the horse to beat as he drops back into New York-bred company for the first time since summer 2020. Something obviously went amiss in his first start of the year when he propped on the far turn, but he ran a much more professional race last time. He got a good trip in that May 20 performance and ultimately just wasn’t good enough. Yet now he’s dropping to a more realistic level, and he’s drawn well on the outside. My only problems are that he’s been gone for another two months, and he’s never been the most trustworthy win candidate, so I’m reluctant to take him at a short price. Most of the other major players in this race are coming out of the June 13 heat at this same level at Belmont. Three Outlaws achieved the best result that day, closing from mid-pack to get up for second. He’s handled this 5 1/2 furlong distance in the past and appears to be back in strong form. He’s a contender, but there’s another runner from that race who interests me more. Discretionary Marq didn’t get the savviest ride last time when his rider made the confusing decision to rate him in the first furlong despite the fact that he broke very well. This horse has typically done his best running when he’s close to the early pace, so he was at a disadvantage right from the start. Prior to that, he had run deceptively well two back, when he got involved chasing a wickedly fast pace set by a horse who faded to last. A repeat of that effort makes him very dangerous here, and I’m hoping that Irad Ortiz gets a little more aggressive this time as he takes over the reins.

RACE 10: DISTRACTANDATTACK (#9)

Fast Gordon figures to be the clear favorite in this maiden claiming finale as he drops out of a couple of maiden special weight events. He’s undoubtedly faced better company in his recent starts and is probably getting class relief that he needs after picking up minor awards in those races. That said, he was just picking up pieces in each of those spots, and I’m not convinced that cutting back in distance really helps him. He’s the horse to beat, but there are some other quick horses in this field. There is quite a bit of speed signed on, but I’m nevertheless interested in a horse who wants to be forwardly placed. Distractandattack got on turf for a couple of races at this level earlier this summer, and he ran well each time. He set fast paces in each of those starts and just couldn’t quite hang on going the six furlongs after maintaining clear advantages to midstretch. He was rained off the turf last time and actually ran a lot better than his finishing position would indicate. He stumbled as badly as you’ll ever see a horse stumble at the start of that race, nearly falling to his face before recovering. He found himself at the back of the pack and made a mild middle move into the race before flattening out. It would appear that this runner is still doing well heading into this return to turf, and I like that Irad Ortiz keeps the mount. He should be able to ration out his ample early speed better than some past pilots.

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