Analysis: Who can beat Joy's Rocket in Martha Washington?

Analysis: Who can beat Joy's Rocket in Martha Washington?
Photo: Coady Photography

Joy’s Rocket's presence in the one-mile $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn on Saturday gives an opportunity to play against the speedy filly at a short price. The four-time sprint winner shows only one miss in the trifecta, which came when stretching out to one mile in the Frizette Stakes (G1). Even though one route flop is possibly meaningless, it gives enough reason to doubt the Anthony's Cross filly going longer.  

Why did trainer Steve Asmussen enter Joy’s Rocket in the Martha Washington? There is always a chance she improves in her second route attempt. But another explanation is that “Kentucky Oaks fever” is as real as “Derby fever” for many connections.

If Joy’s Rocket does indeed struggle with the one-mile distance, then the most likely winner is Coach, who exits a decent third-place finish in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs won by Travel Column, with Clairiere second.

In the replay, Coach makes a good move on the turn

Unfortunately, she is outkicked by Clairiere and Travel Column.

Coach still put in a good effort overall to move up approaching the turn and fight alongside Clairiere briefly, before Clairiere began to separate from the field and Travel Column swept by Clairiere with a late rally to capture the race by a length. Travel Column and Clairiere are both talented fillies. 

For the third-place finish, Coach earned a 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure. In comparison, Joy’s Rocket has earned two 100s in her last two starts while sprinting. Given Coach’s 99 came in a route, she is more trustworthy.

Coach also owns useful tactical speed, which is supposed to put the filly right behind Joy’s Rocket and Sylvia Q early on.

Trainer Brad Cox is always a plus for bettors as well. He uses Florent Geroux for this assignment, and TimeformUS rates the Cox/Geroux combination a perfect 100.

Coach is the top choice in this analysis. 

Will’s Secret aims for a second career win under trainer Dallas Stewart after breaking her maiden in mild fashion at Fair Grounds.

In that Dec. 30 Fair Grounds maiden race, Will’s Secret overcame a wide first turn to stalk the pace and eventually pull clear of the field in the stretch for a 2 3/4-length victory while earning a respectable 94 figure on TimeformUS. She only needs to build slightly off that speed figure. 

Two starts ago, on Oct. 25 at Churchill Downs, Will’s Secret ran against the aforementioned Clairiere in a maiden race. Will’s Secret went along evenly in the stretch run for third, while Clairiere put in a great effort to mow down the uncontested leader Super Quick for the win.

Then came Clairiere's strong second in the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. Considering Will’s Secret previously lost to Clairiere by only 2 1/4 lengths at Churchill, she must own at least mild talent.

In terms of early tactical speed, Coach is the faster filly on paper with the consistent ability to sit one length off the pacesetter. Will’s Secret was only one length off the pace in the opening quarter at Fair Grounds though. If jockey Jon Court wants to use speed, Will’s Secret is capable. 

Will’s Secret is the second choice in this analysis. If she gets some pace and moves forward off the maiden win, then she is a win contender.

To give credit to Joy’s Rocket, she still earned a 98 TimeformUS Speed Figure despite finishing fourth in the one-mile Frizette Stakes (G1). Again, though, why did Asmussen start Joy’s Rocket in three straight sprint races before the Frizette? Why not try routing sooner if she looks like a router?

After the Frizette, Asmussen cut Joy’s Rocket back to 6 1/2 furlongs and then six furlongs rather than attempt a route again immediately. Her schedule gives away the hesitation. If Joy's Rocket gave the impression of a router, five of her six career starts would not come in sprints. 

Coach and Will’s Secret are the two fillies to use in multi-race wagers, although Coach is the higher priority for those without a lot of money. If Sylvia Q scratches and leaves Joy’s Rocket alone on the lead, then think about skipping the race or moving up Joy’s Rocket to the top slot alongside those two other fillies based on the loose lead angle alone.

From a vertical standpoint, an exacta wheel with Coach and Will’s Secret on top of Coach, Will Secret, Novell Squall and Sylvia Q might pay decently if Joy’s Rocket misfires.

Also, there is a possibility of rain, so bettors might use caution before attacking this race too hard. 

2021 Martha Washington (LS)

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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