Northeast Philadelphia is the final stop for this year’s 3-year-old crop of colts before they start facing older horses.
Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa., will host the $1 million Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby on Saturday afternoon that has attracted a field of six to compete for the top prize of $600,000. The Grade 1 Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies will be the lead-in to the PA Derby matching up Guarana (9-5) with Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress (7-2) and west coast invader Bellafina (6-1).
As for the boys, earlier in the week Haskell winner Maximum Security scratched out of the race with a colon issue that sent him straight to the equine hospital. That leaves six contenders vying for the lucrative purse.
The field including Bob Baffert-trained Improbable (8-5) and Indiana and West Virginia Derby winner Mr. Money (2-1) look for a primer before the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita Park. Preakness winner War of Will (3-1), who has struggled since the third Saturday in May is also part of the reduced field.
Baffert has won the last two editions of the race and three of the last five trips to the suburban Philly track.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Pennsylvania Derby (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis) which will be run as Race 11 at 5:48 p.m. at Parx:
1 – Math Wizard (Saffie, Zayas, 6-1). After a decent third place finish in the Indiana Derby in July, this son of Algorithms failed to fire in the West Virginia Derby. His best race was likely his runner-up finish in the Ohio Derby, beaten a nose by the well-respected Owendale, who fared well in the Travers at Saratoga. He comes into this race more rested than he was when he ran at Mountaineer and could be a factor underneath in the exotics.
2 – Improbable (Baffert, Smith, 8-5). Was handed the favorite role upon the scratch of Maximum Security and the big horse is a formidable competitor at nine furlongs against this group. Registered his first win of the year in the Shared Belief at Del Mar after getting a rest from Baffert coming off the Triple Crown trail. Baffert deadly second off the layoff (26%) and looking to win his fourth Derby in the last six years. The one to beat.
3 – Shanghai Superfly (Zulueta, Pennington, 30-1). Still a maiden, trying to figure out how he got in this race. Completely overmatched and will need a miracle to beat the class of this field. Being a son of Shanghai Bobby is all he has going for him. Wager at your own risk.
4 – War of Will (Casse, Gaffalione, 4-1). He’s been a bet against for me through all of his big four races and has had a pretty tough campaign. Only beat me at Pimlico, where another couple jumps he would have been on the short end of the stick to Owendale or Everfast. Still taking a stand against him and will take my chances.
5 – Spun to Run (Guerrero, Lopez, 6-1). Won the local prep, the G3 Smarty Jones, and has the type of pedigree that could surprise this short field at a price. Son of Hard Spun out of a Grand Slam mare is a late, maturing colt that Paco will likely have on the front end. Showed his class beating Gray Magician and comes in third off the layoff (trainer winning 22% on that angle). Sneaky contender.
6 – Mr. Money (Calhoun, Saez, 2-1). Winner of four straight, all in impressive fashion roving across middle America, he enters deeper waters for the first time and looks up to the challenge. The son of Goldencents out of a Tiznow mare has another gear and has showed it in his last two efforts in Indiana and West Virginia. Pennsylvania will be his coming out party in a big stretch duel with the favorite. The pick.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Mr. Money; 2 – Improbable; 3 – Spun to Run; 4 – Math Wizard
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.