The Pennsylvania Derby

The $1 million dollar, Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing this Saturday is the final marquee race restricted to members of a very competitive and unsettled 3-year-old dirt male division before they begin competing against older horses in races such as the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 2nd at Santa Anita Park.

The outlook of the race was significantly altered Tuesday after the scratch of MAXIMUM SECURITY.

The 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby will be televised nationally on NBC with a scheduled Post Time of 5:48 p.m.  Here then is a look at the field:

 MATH WIZARD  [ML 8-1]  Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.  Jockey: Edgard Zayas.  Although he was 2nd in the Ohio Derby and 3rd in the Indiana Derby (the latter of which was won by MR. MONEY) he has not Won a race since January at Gulfstream Park in a $25,000 race from which he was claimed by his current connections.  He now sees Grade 1 competition for the first time.

   IMPROBABLE  [ML 3-1]  Trainer: Bob Baffert.  Jockey: Mike Smith.  The Baff seeks his fourth Pennsylvania Derby Win and his third in a row.  This colt has only one Win as a 3-year-old and that came against three challengers in his return race from the Triple Crown trail.  However, there were 2nd place finishes in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) that came against quality competition, and his 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby was a positive.  Safe to say that Baffert will have him ready to run his best.

 SHANGHAI SUPERFLY  [ML 30-1]  Trainer: Marcos Zulueta.  Jockey: Frankie Pennington.  This Parx-based runner was last seen running 2nd in a Maiden Claiming race at Monmouth Park for a $50,000 tag.  He has raced at five different tracks and has yet to break through in eight tries.  Why ask why.  

 WAR OF WILL  [ML 5-1]  Trainer: Mark Casse.  Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione.  He got a Grade 1 Victory in the Preakness after a vigorous spring campaign on the Kentucky Derby trail.  He received some time off after two lackluster performances in the Belmont Stakes and the Jim Dandy (G2).  This colt is likely to get overlooked a bit against the likes of IMPROBABLE and MR. MONEY, meaning he’ll offer good betting Value if you like him.

 SPUN TO RUN  [ML 8-1]  Trainer: Juan Carlos Guerrero.  Jockey: Paco Lopez.  This son of HARD SPUN was the Winner of the Smarty Jones (G3), which is the local prep race for the Pennsylvania Derby.  He ran 3rd in the Haskell (G1) in his first try in a Stakes.  He was well behind the top two in there but was also far ahead of the rest of the field.  He has three Wins in five starts on this track (horses for courses), and adds blinkers for Saturdays contest.  

 MR. MONEY  [ML 4-1]  Trainer: W. Bret Calhoun.  Jockey: Gabriel Saez.  He brings his four-race Win streak in Grade 3 races to Parx to face some higher-level competition for the first time since running 4th in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  All four of those Victories were impressive, as he stalked the early pace and then drew off to Win by decisive margins.  Bear in mind he was not up against the likes of competition this field offers.  This is the toughest spot of his career.

Summary: The fact that the major players in this year’s Pennsylvania Derby all have similar running styles makes this an interesting race to handicap.  To some extent, they all like to stalk the early pace and then use their speed to take control of the race in the final furlongs.  It is doubtful that they all will make the same move, so the race strategy will be crucial.

MAXIMUM SECURITY appeared to be the one who would most likely use his speed early in the race.  With the opening Morning Line favorite out, it provides an opportunity for another contender, at a higher price to take over.

The Play:  Daily Racing Blog anticipates #2 IMPROBABLE, and #6 MR. MONEY to be the Post-Time favorites- and rightfully so.  But that’s not how we roll at DRB, so this is a simple one;  we will use the #4 WAR OF WILL and #5 SPUN TO RUN on top of a Trifecta Key with the field.  So the ticket will read; 4-5 with 1-2-3-4-5-6.  We’ll also do a Win bet on the #5.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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