The 3-year-old class heads to Philadelphia and Parx Racing for this weekend’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. A Grade 2 race covering 1 1/8-miles that at one time attempted to attract Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will entertain 10 colts, several who challenged Pharoah in the Travers last month.
Last year, the Bob Baffert-trained Bayern utilized the speed-favoring track to his advantage and used it as a stepping-stone to the Breeders’ Cup Classic sending dual Classic winner California Chrome down to his worst defeat in his career.
Frosted (5-2), who softened up the Triple Crown winner in Saratoga, is the morning line favorite. He will be challenged by fourth-place Travers finisher Upstart (9-2), and West Virginia Derby winner Madefromlucky (4-1) in an interesting group of sophomores.
A solid card at the suburban Philly track will also have the $1 million Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies will run the feature Pennsylvania Derby as Race 10 with a 5:45 p.m. ET post time.
Let’s take a look at the field (post position, trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 – War Story (Radosevich, Parker, 20-1) A trainer change before the West Virginia Derby resulted in a third-place finish after a dismal performance in the Derby and a fourth-place finish in the Ohio Derby. Deshawn Parker retains the mount he had at Mountaineer, but he’s back stepping up in class against these foes. At best he rounds out the super.
2 – Island Town (Wilkes, Hernandez, 10-1) The son of Hard Spun comes out of a win in the local prep (Smarty Jones) after a disappointing effort in the Indiana Derby. He has the pedigree for the distance and sports a sharp morning work on Sept. 13. He could be a surprise underneath in the exotics.
3 – Frosted (McLaughlin, Rosario, 5-2) He’s easily the class of the race off his efforts in the Triple Crown and Saratoga this summer. Has a bit of a seconditis issue, but with the names he’s been beat by, it’s no knock on his record. Upstart took it to him twice on a speed favoring track in Florida, chasing him back to New York to win the Wood. He needs to win one of the big ones.
4 - Iron Fist (Hollendorfer, Smith, 8-1) The son of Tapit out of an Orientate mare is a late improving colt who has Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons. He was only a couple lengths behind the West Virginia Derby winner at the finish. He might be a tad overmatched in here but I like his improving running lines.
5 – Madefromlucky (Pletcher, Velazquez, 4-1) Anytime you can get Pletcher/Velazquez at odds greater than 4-1 you have to pay attention. The West Virginia Derby winner is 3-for-4 at the distance and is well rested coming into the race. Shows a monster workout on Sept. 12 and looks to be fit and ready to roll. Dangerous.
6 – Gimme da Lute (Baffert, Garcia, 5-1) The son of Midnight Lute out of a Proud Citizen mare is a speedy colt that has a win at the distance (Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita). This is a horse who could steal the race with the speed. Baffert has had success at the track and is extremely dangerous firing a horse like this.
7 – Tommy Macho (Pletcher, Castellano, 10-1) This one still needs to prove himself after not running a lick at Mountaineer in early August. This will be another class test for the son of Macho Uno. He gets top jock Castellano aboard, but that may not be enough to overcome his limitations.
8 – Battle Midway (Zito, Gryder, 20-1) Third-place finisher in local prep by 10 lengths appears to be in over his head with this crew. His speed figures don’t match up with the competition and has yet to hit the board at the race distance.
9 – Upstart (Violette, Ortiz, Jr., 9-2) Other than the outside post, the race looks like it may set up for him best with his early speed. He comes in third off the layoff and this could be his coming out party. My pick.
10 – Mr. Z (Lukas, Saez, 10-1) Tried his hand shortening up in the King’s Bishop and faded late at the Spa. He was doing fine in the mid-level Derbies earlier in the summer and seemed to regress in the sprint. Stretches out for the Coach, but he’s not had success against the likes of this group so far this year.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Upstart; 2 – Gimme da Lute; 3 – Frosted; 4 - Madefromlucky
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.