Lady and The Track | April 14, 2021

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Pennsylvania Derby Lures Top Sophomore Stars, Local Favorites

Cotillion, Gallant Bob Complete Graded Stakes Lineup Saturday

By Margaret Ransom

Parx Racing Penn DerbyThe $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GI), held every September at Parx, is for many a last-ditch effort to get a rich Derby win for the best of the year’s sophomore crop. With the title for who is the top of the division remains firmly up in the air thanks to the sidelined Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) winners, as well as the reigning juvenile champion, the connections of six runners – including Preakness Stakes (G1) winner War of Will — are hopeful their sophomore star will earn the honor.

Disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security was the original favorite for this nine-furlong main track event, but due to a bout of colic earlier in the week he was withdrawn from the race. Trainer Jason Servis said the son of New Year’s Day will be fine and his career is not threatened and he is still considered possible to make the Breeders’ Cup in six weeks.

Since the well-known Woody Stephens-trained Smarten took home the inaugural Pennsylvania Derby trophy in 1979, a number of good 3-year-olds have also emerged from the nine-furlong feature victorious, including Preakness Stakes (GI) winner Summer Squall in 1990 and 1987 Canadian Horse of the Year Afleet, as well as Dixieland Band, Skip Trial, Broad Brush, Wallenda, Macho Uno, Harlan’s Holiday, Will Take Charge, Bayern, Frosted, West Coast and McKinzie a year ago.

Improbable. Photo: Jordan Thomson

Stephens, Bob Baffert and Nick Zito have each won three to lead all trainers, while Joe Bravo is the race’s top jockey with three wins himself.

Hall of Famers Baffert and jockey Mike Smith are back after winning the last two and partner with grade 1 winner Improbable here looking for their third in a row. The flashy chestnut son of City Zip, who was the beaten favorite in both the Kentucky Derby (finished fifth) and Preakness (finished sixth) returns off a brief layoff and a prep race victory in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar four weeks ago and should be more than fit to go this nine-furlong distance. His tactical early speed is his weapon and if he gets comfortable in his preferred spot either leading the way or sitting just behind the pace, he will be tough to run down.

2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will. Photo: Jordan Thomson

It seems like Gary Barber’s War of Will has danced a lot of dances this year, but the reality is he’s raced less than once a month as a 3-year-old. The son of War Front earned a disappointing fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes (GII) two months ago and skipped the Travers Stakes, which now looks like a solid decision as he’s been training tremendously at Saratoga and now Belmont Park ever since. This Mark Casse trainee, who was part of the Kentucky Derby incident that resulted in the disqualification of the winner, Maximum Security, will also be forwardly placed by regular jockey Tyler Gaffalione and his numbers show his best is certainly enough for a win.

Mr. Money. Photo: Jordan Thomson

Allied Racing Stable’s Mr. Money rides a four-race stakes-winning streak into this race, which despite its small size, contains what is likely his most solid competitors in at least the top two runners. This son of Goldencents will get the quick early pace he likes to sit right behind and has earned the speed and pace figures to suggest he fits here in his quest to win a grade 1. Regular jockey Gabriel Saez is back aboard for Bret Calhoun and he will break from the outside thanks to the scratch of Maximum Security to his right. He’s won one of two starts at this distance and is well-traveled, having visited four tracks already this year.

Spun to Run won the Smarty Jones Stakes (GIII) as a prep for this race after finishing a respectable third in the Haskell behind Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto. It took a while for this Juan Guerrero-trained son of Hard Spun to break his maiden, but he knocked on the door a number of times before barging through with a nice 3 ½-lengh score, which he followed up with a first-level allowance romp. He’s bred to love this distance, though at his only attempt produced a third, but he’s an improving sort who may put it all together for a larger share here. If his last, which is leaps and bounds a bigger effort than he’s ever produced, isn’t a bounce he’s probably worth a longer look. Paco Lopez will ride.

Math Wizard, who ran in the same $16,000 maiden claiming event as Maximum Security at Gulfstream Park back in November and was haltered that day, has had a nice rise from the claiming ranks into decent graded stakes competitor. While he’s not shown himself to be a grade 1 competitor, he’s run and run well against some of the best in the division. He also finished Mr. Money in his last two starts, both graded stakes, and while the connections of this son of Algorithms are hopeful he’ll turn the tables, he’ll need to run the race of his life to do so. With that said, he has a lot of heart and figures to earn a share.

Shanghai Superfly is ambitiously placed as a maiden who was second in a maiden claiming event last time out.

Eleven For Competitive Cotillion

Guarana. Photo: Daniella Ricci

Three Chimney Farm’s lightly raced Guarana puts her undefeated win streak on the line as the 9-5 favorite in Saturday’s $1 million Cotillion Stakes (GI), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” event for the Longines Distaff (GI) at Santa Anita in six weeks. The Chad Brown-trained daughter of Ghostzapper won the Acorn Stakes (GI) at Belmont in June and then the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI) at Saratoga two months ago. She may have been late to this party, but she sure has become the life and she doesn’t even need to run her best to win this race.

Serengeti Empress. Photo: Jordan Thomson

Kentucky Oaks (GI) wnner Serengeti Empress will no doubt be gunning from her innermost post position to her preferred spot leading the way. The Tom Amoss-trained daughter of Alternation brings a pair of seconds in the Test Stakes and the and the Acorn in her last two in her attempt to return to the winner’s circle. She’s been training great at Churchill for the last two months and her figures suggest that her best makes her a legit candidate for the victory.

Joel Rosario and Jaywalk after winning the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, 11/2/18. Photo: Jordan Thomson

Champion Jaywalk has had some trouble this year returning to the form that earned her an Eclipse Award as last year’s top juvenile filly, though she looked great winning the Delaware Oaks (GIII) in early July. She uses a second-place finish in the Monmouth Oaks as a prep for this event and it certainly helps her cause that she’s running over her home track for trainer John Servis. This front-running type must overcome the outside post, but if she gets clear and mantains her old form she will be tough to run down in the lane.

The full field for the Cotillion, in post position order, is:

  1. Serengeti Empress, Irad Ortiz Jr., Tom Amoss, 7-2
  2. Afleet Destiny, TBD, Uriah St. Lewis, 30-1
  3. Street Band, Sophie Doyle, Larry Jones, 8-1
  4. Jeltrin, Leonel Reyes, Alexis Delgado, 12-1
  5. Collegeville Girl, Angel Castillo, Richard Vega, 20-1
  6. Horologist, Luis Saez, John Mazza, 15-1
  7. She Makes Me Smile, Wesley Torres, Trevor Gallimore, 50-1
  8. Guarana, Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown, 9-5
  9. Sweet Sami D, Paco Lopez, Patrick McBurney, 20-1
  10. Bellafina, Flavien Prat, Simon Callaghan, 6-1
  11. Jaywalk, Joel Rosario, John Servis, 6-1

Five other stakes will be contested on Saturday’s program, including the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes (GII) for sophomore sprinters. Pennsylvania-breds will run for the lion’s share of the $100,000 Alphabet Soup Stakes at one mile on the turf and the $100,000 Plum Pretty Stakes for fillies and mares on the main track at that same distance. The $150,000 Turf Amazon for sprinting fillies and mares on the grass at five furlongs and and the $150,000 Parx Dirt Mile round out the added-money action.

The Cotillion and Pennsylvania Derby will be broadcast on NBC from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET.