by Dustin Fabian
September 19, 2019
It’s another great weekend in racing, but aren’t they all?
There are major stakes races from coast-to-coast and the focus of many handicappers will be on Laurel’s ‘September to Remember’ Xpressbet De Francis Dash card and/or Parx’s massive Pennsylvania Derby celebration.
I have picks for both races, but I’ve also identified a few other stakes races that look too good to pass up. The action gets underway early with Parx and Laurel at 12:25PM ET each (a little inconvenient but they sort themselves out throughout the day and the big Laurel races are over before the meat of the Parx card starts) and continues late into the night, as my last feature race goes to post after 10PM ET in West Virginia. So keep those bankrolls flush throughout the day and don’t go belly up too early!
Plus, before we talk picks, let’s talk Xpressbet promos:
And, without further ado, here are the previews and picks!
G1 Pennsylvania Derby
Parx Racing (Race 11, 5:48PM ET)
With ML favorite Maximum Security out with an illness, this has become – in most people’s eyes – a two horse showdown between Mr. Money and Improbable. The luster seems to be off the third horse in the discussion, War of Will, and that would make this a great time to give him a little extra consideration. Mr. Money has won four straight races – all G3s – and it’s extremely fair to note that he’s beaten horses like Plus Que Parfait, Signalman, Gray Magician, Hog Creek Hustle, Chess Chief and Math Wizard during his streak. On the other hand, Improbable was remarkably disappointing as the favorite in both the KY Derby and Preakness, finishing 5th and 6th, respectively. He hasn’t won a graded stakes race since December and his comeback in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar was fine, but he didn’t beat much. War of Will got some time away from racing following his 5th place finish in the G2 Jim Dandy and he seems to be working great for this comeback – bullets galore at Saratoga and Belmont. If Mark Casse has him right, he’s a horse to beat. And please don’t sleep on the local horse, Spun to Run. He’ll be overlooked (he’s 8/1 ML), but I don’t think there’s a huge difference between him and Mr. Money. He ran great to win the G3 Smarty Jones Stakes on September 2 here at Parx.
1. #4 War of Will (5/1)
2. #6 Mr. Money (4/1)
3. #5 Spun to Run (8/1)
G1 Cotillion Stakes
Parx Racing (Race 10, 5:14PM ET)
This year’s three-year-old filly division has been in flux from the outset as reigning sophomore champion Jaywalk has struggled to replicate her best races, compiling just a 1-for-5 mark in ’19. California’s ‘best’ was thought to be Bellafina, but tardy starts in the G1 Kentucky Oaks and G1 Test have tarnished her shine. And Kentucky Oaks winner, Serengeti Empress, is the truest ‘need the lead’ type in racing and continues to draw the rail, which even moreso forces the hand of whomever sits on her back. All of that uncertainty makes it very easy to love a filly like Guarana here. The daughter of Ghostzapper is 3-for-3 in her career with a pair of G1 scores. The only issue – on paper at least – is her only two turn try returned her lowest Beyer Speed Figure (92). What if two-turn racing isn’t her forte? That’s the risk that bettors have to take if they’re going to bet the chalk here. For my money, the race shape benefits her so much that it’s hard to look elsewhere. That said, if something happens and Jaywalk and/or Bellafina don’t run, that could make Serengeti Empress the right play.
1. #8 Guarana (9/5)
2. #6 Horologist (15/1)
3. #1 Serengeti Empress (7/2)
G3 Xpressbet Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash
Laurel Park (Race 8, 4:00PM ET)
The Xpressbet office is buzzing over the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and it’s not just because we’re the title sponsor of the race. It’s a very solid edition of a race that has, at least historically, had pre or post-Breeders’ Cup implications. New York Central won a G3 at Pimlico in May. Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain, Altissimo and He Hate Me are all stakes winners. My pick here is going to be He Hate Me. He’s in the top form of his life and I think they may have been just a bit too aggressive last out when he was put on the lead in a stakes race up at Saratoga. He seems better suited to sit just off the lead, take charge and hold them off late.
1. #6 He Hate Me (3/1)
2. #7 New York Central (5/2)
3. #4 Bon Raison (5/1)
My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, has a different take on the ‘Dash. Here’s his analysis.
G3 Kelso Handicap
Belmont Park (Race 10, 5:57PM ET)
The hole left by Catholic Boy’s defection cuts pretty hard through this field but him looking elsewhere might just create a better betting race for those putting money on it. I’ve never quite known what to do with Prince Lucky, but I’ve come to appreciate that this horse is more consistent than I have given him credit for. If you put a line through his wet track races, he’s 7-for-11 in his career and it’s hard to hold a Met Mile loss or a wide trip in the Lecomte against him. He’s back in top form and has a great running style to succeed here so I’m going to bet him with Plainsman. Shug brought that one back off the layoff in a sprint race and the horse simply doesn’t perform as well going short. He’ll be much sharper now.
1. #5 Prince Lucky (2/1)
2. #6 Plainsman (4/1)
3. #3 Pat On the Back (3/1)
G3 Charles Town Oaks
Charles Town (Race 11, 10:15PM ET)
Last year, a local filly – Late Night Pow Wow – scored the upset in this race. And that makes sense. Charles Town’s bullring oval is tough to navigate for shippers and the loscal horses know their way around the oval. There’s only one such filly in this time around, Parisian Diva, but you’d better believe she’ll be on my ticket at 12/1 ML. She’s 7-for-10 at Charles Town, 3-for-4 at the distance and is ridden by Jose Montano, one of the premier riders at the track. You’ve got to be impressed by Linda Rice’s Newly Minted. She’s 4-for-4 on dirt and no filly has ever finished within 2 1/2-lengths of her. This will be her first start outside of restricted/state-bred company, though. That won’t deter me. Brad Cox’s Irish Mischief feels like a good horse with a questionable ML. She has popped back-to-back 89 Beyers – the best of this field – and is 8/1 ML. Only one horse has run a faster race on the Beyer scale and that was Fashion Faux Pas when she ran away with a minor stakes race at Delaware.
1. #2 Irish Mischief (8/1)
2. #5 Newly Minted (4/1)
3. #3 Parisian Diva (12/1)
Those are my picks – good luck with your plays and let’s cash some tickets!