RACE 7: ALWAYZ LATE (#7)
A couple of runners in this field exit a July 8 race at this level from Belmont. #1 Bye Bye figures to attract support off her third-place finish that day, as she and others were compromised by the extremely slow pace set by winner Bay Storm. That said, Bye Bye was in relatively close attendance to that pace and had her chance to challenge in upper stretch, but was just unable to kick with the winner late. She may appreciate the slight turnback in distance, but I preferred another from that race. #7 Alwayz Late is the one who really had no chance to make an impact in that July 8 affair, as she was restrained at the back of the pack early and left with too much ground to make up. The winner sprinted home the last quarter in about 22-flat, so she had no chance to make a serious impact closing into such a fast final split. However, she did make up some ground despite the fact that she altered course multiple times during the drive, searching for the best path. She’s now been hindered by unfavorable pace scenarios twice in a row and is in better form than it appears. Her main rival may be #6 Mail Order, who has the tactical speed to get the jump on her. This daughter of Liam’s Map will attempt to turn back again after winning in her first attempt at 6 furlongs last time. Though she started out her career going longer, she’s bred to be fast, as he dam is a half-sister to globetrotting Japanese turf sprinter Agnes World.
RACE 8: BAL HARBOUR (#2)
#5 Art Collector figures to go favored here as he attempts to win the Alydar for the second consecutive year. However, there are some questions for him to answer as he attempts to get back on track following a disappointing overseas trip to the Saudi Cup. While he did run some impressive speed figures during his win streak last year, he also got fantastic trips and setups in a few of those races. He may work out another good trip here as the likely controlling speed in a situation where the Pace Projector is favoring runners on or near the lead. That said, it’s no guarantee that he’s ready to deliver a top effort off the layoff and there are some talented rivals in this race. #1 Mystic Night figures to take money as he goes out for the popular duo of Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz. He’s won two optional claimers in a row, but he was a non-threatening 6th in his only prior start against stakes company last winter. I thought he was beating a weaker field last time and I don’t trust him to show up in class at what could be an underlay. #4 King Fury and #6 Masqueparade are the other logical alternatives, but I haven’t been thrilled with the performances of either since they contested last summer’s Travers. I’m going in a different direction with #2 Bal Harbour. The obvious drawback with this horse is his lack of recent victories. To be specific, he’s lost 19 straight races, and hasn’t won since Nov. 2018. However, he did run some of his best races for trainer Todd Pletcher, and now he’s returning to that barn as he attempts to get back on track. He put in the best effort of his career when second in the 2019 Woodward over this same course and distance. I like the way he’s training for this return and he figures to be a square price even as he picks up Flavien Prat.
RACE 9: BYE BYE MELVIN (#4)
I don’t have a major knock against #2 Atone, who deserves to be favored as he drops out of a series of graded stakes events. He’s been in excellent form since the winter, and a repeat of his Forbidden Apple performances makes him the one to beat. He obviously runs well at Saratoga, and I like that he’s sticking at this one-mile distance. Chad Brown has entered a pair against him, of which #7 Good Governance figures to take money. This horse did have a legitimate trip when just barely getting up to win at Tampa last time. He’s clearly better than that, but I’m just generally mistrustworthy of a horse who has so much trouble staying on the racetrack. He’s lost at short prices a few times during his career and just feels like one that makes his own trouble. I actually prefer #1 Emaraaty at a better price, though neither of these Brown runners are my top pick. I’m instead getting a little more creative with #4 Bye Bye Melvin. This 5-year-old hasn’t raced in over a year, but he had been in decent form in the early part of 2021. I thought he ran well to just miss in a tough allowance at Keeneland off the layoff last year, earning a competitive speed figure. Things obviously went awry in the Manhattan last time, but I think he’s now returning at an appropriate distance. Graham Motion has solid stats off layoffs and he figures to fly under the radar in a competitive affair.