Hard knocker Morning Matcha readies for DelCap shot

Morning Matcha
Morning Matcha won the 2024 Unique Bella Stakes. Photo by Bill Denver/EQUI-Photo.

You have to like a horse like Morning Matcha. The five-year-old Central Banker mare hails from a genuinely modest background, yet here she is, step-by-step, creeping up on a million dollars in career earnings.

“You know, she’s done it the hard way,” acknowledges her Parx-based trainer Butch Reid. “But one thing about a horse like this, she keeps everybody happy. [Co-owner] Gary Barber calls her his ATM.”

The hard way, as in no graded stakes wins, as in no wins in races where the total purse exceeded $125,000. But bit by bit – seven wins, seven second-place finishes, and seven thirds from 26 career starts – there she is with just over $956,000 in the bank.

She’ll get a chance to flip that script on its head Sunday, though, when she runs in the $500,000, Grade 2 Delaware Handicap. The filly-and-mare classic, contested at 1 3/16 miles, is the ninth race on a 10-race program that kicks off at 12:30.

Morning Matcha ran a distant third in last year’s DelCap, beaten by future champion Idiomatic. The good news for Reid and owners LC Racing, Cash Is King, and Gary Barber is that Idiomatic’s not walking through the door Sunday.

The post time favorite will likely be the Brad Cox-trained Wet Paint. The Blame filly was a Grade 1 winner last year when she took the Coaching Club American Oaks at the Spa. But she’s lost all four of her starts since, and her two outings this year have been just fair: a distant sixth in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom and a well-beaten third in the Grade 3 Shawnee.

“I don’t think she’s been quite as good as she was earlier in her career the last couple of starts,” Reid said. “But I’m sure Cox will have her ready.”

Morning Matcha arrives off a not-so-great outing herself. She finished seventh in the Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses at Aqueduct June 15, but Reid is inclined to draw a line through that outing.

“She never really got an opportunity in that race,” Reid said. “She kind of got out of the gate bad, and then she was blocked the entire trip. So we’re kind of throwing out that last one.”

Since that June 15 contest, Morning Matcha has posted one recorded work, a half-mile move June 29 in 50 2/5 seconds at Reid’s Parx base. That ranked 36th out of 49 workers that day.

“She had a real nice breeze last week and is coming up to the race real well,” Reid said.

Morning Matcha’s best distance remains open to question. Her two most recent wins both came at seven furlongs, and Reid suspects it might be a one-turn mile. But she did run third in this event a year ago, and while she was well beaten, that likely has more to do with the company than with her.

“Looking at this field, I think she fits in there very well,” said the trainer. “It’s a very prestigious race. She’s coming up to the race very well. I think she’ll get the distance without a problem, and we’ll take our shot.”

He added, “The thing I like about is there are two or three speedy types in here, so I think the pace will be honest and will set up a little bit for us because we do like to come from off.”

Reid bought Morning Matcha as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic fall yearling sale in Timonium in 2020 for the princely sum of $18,000. That makes her near-million-dollar bankroll all the more impressive.

In truth, though, Morning Matcha is something of a unicorn. Her four siblings to race have won a combined total of three races and about $90,000.

Reid and friends have made good use of Morning Matcha’s “dual citizenship” as a Pennsylvania-bred who is New York stallion certified. She’s won stakes in both programs, including back-to-back runnings of the Unique Bella for PA-breds at Parx. She also has an open stakes win in the 2022 Main Line at Parx and a runner-up effort in that same track’s Grade 1 Cotillion.

Reid grew up in West Deptford, NJ, about 30 min from Delaware Park, and while he thinks the now-shuttered Garden State Park is where he first attended the races – “The old Garden State was probably the first track we kind of snuck into underage,” he remembered – he’s been going to Delaware, as a fan and bettor, and now as a trainer, for a long time.

So a Delcap win? That would put Reid’s mare over a million bucks, give her her first graded win, and check off a pretty meaningful race that has thus far eluded him.

“You know, that’s a race I’ve grown up watching, a bunch of really great mares, some of the greatest mares of all time win the race,” he said. “It would certainly mean a lot to get a chance to win it.”