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My PA Derby & Cotillion Picks

by Dustin Fabian

September 21, 2017

Attention shifts to Parx this Saturday for a dynamite 13-race card in the City of Brotherly Love. Travers winner, West Coast, and Kentucky Oaks heroine, Abel Tasman, are in town for top trainer, Bob Baffert, where they’ll put a combined win streaks of seven straight on the line. Will the beat go on Saturday? Here’s my take on those questions and more.

Parx at a Glimpse:

  • Saturday, September 23
  • First Post: 12:25PM ET
  • Number of Races: 13
  • Stakes Races:
    • Race 7 – Alphabet Soup S. (100K) – PA-Bred 3YO+ - 1 1/16 Miles Turf
    • Race 8 – PA Derby Champion S. (150k) – 3YO+ - 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
    • Race 9 – Gallant Bob S. (Gr 3, 300k) – 3YO – 6 Furlongs Dirt
    • Race 10 – Cotillion S. (Gr 1, 1M) – 3YO Fillies – 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
    • Race 11 – Pennsylvania Derby (Gr 1, 1M) – 3YO – 1 1/8 Miles Dirt
  • Exotic Wagers
    • Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta wagering on every race
    • Doubles begin with Races 1, 3, 8, 10 and 12
    • Rolling Pick 3’s
    • Pick 4’s begin with Race 5 and Race 9

Question 1: Can Anyone Beat West Coast?

Probably, but it depends which West Coast shows up. It’s hard to believe that the horse that just won the Travers by 3 ¼-lengths is the same horse that lost the Grade 3 Lexington to Senior Investment just five months ago. Since then he’s reeled off four wins, but they all weren’t works of art. He had to dig deep against far inferior fields twice, and don’t forget this horse was 6/1 in the Travers. Let’s take a look at the field to try and find an upsetter:

1. TIMELINE (5/1) – The beaten Haskell favorite had the misfortune of drawing inside, and I think that means Javier Castellano will need to use him early and often to gain and maintain position. Toss his Haskell (he missed the break) and his record is pristine. Problem is, he’s going to have to handle several other quality speed horses today. His chances at winning are not good.

2. OUTPLAY (12/1) – He’s a major pace player, but was beaten 5 ¾-lengths by West Coast when they squared off in Belmont’s Easy Goer. He’ll be a hindrance on the front-end, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll hang around to the finish.

3. WATCH ME WHIP (20/1) – I thought he debuted like a star at Keeneland in April, but he hasn’t lived up to my early hype. After three straight defeats, including a 4th last out in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby, I feel like it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

5. IRAP (3/1) – He was beaten 5 ½-lengths by West Coast in the Travers, but had won 3-of-4 going into the Midsummer Derby. His running style might be a perfect fit for the projected race shape, but it won’t be easy to make up nearly six-lengths on the favorite. Look for him to be rolling late.

6. TALK LOGISTICS (20/1) – He’s 1-for-10 in his career and has never won around two turns. It’s very difficult to envision a scenario where he finishes favorably.

7. GAME OVER (15/1) – The best value in the field. He finished 2nd, beaten just 1-length, in the West Virginia Derby. He has come a long way in a short time for Loooch Racing Stable, and while a win may be unlikely, he has a ‘grind it out’ style that could land him in the Trifecta.

8. IRISH WAR CRY (9/2) – He’s your wildcard. On his best day, he absolutely can hang with West Coast. He crushed Gunnevera and Classic Empire in the Holy Bull, then toyed with Battalion Runner and Cloud Computing in the Wood Memorial. Problem is, in between those races he was 10th in the Kentucky Derby and 7th in the Fountain of Youth. Ouch. If the good version of him shows up, he’s poised to give West Coast everything he can handle.

9. TERM OF ART (20/1) – I can’t figure out why this horse keeps getting tossed into the deep end. He doesn’t have a chance.

10. GIUSEPPE THE GREAT (20/1) – He was 2nd in both the Jim Dandy and Woody Stephens without seriously threatening the winners. He’s still eligible for N1X allowance conditions and may want to try his next race there.

So that’s my take. The only horses that can beat West Coast are IRISH WAR CRY and IRAP, with IRAP getting the slight nod based on a projected fast pace.

Now he’s 8/5 and on top of the world. He meets a new group here, headlined by Wood Memorial winner, Irish War Cry, and beaten Haskell favorite, Timeline.

Of the two, Irish War Cry just appears to be more polished. He was swallowed up late in the Haskell, but owns a pair of Grade 2 victories this year (Wood Memorial and Holly Bull Stakes) and reunites with jockey Feargal Lynch, with whom he is a perfect 2-for-2. Timeline was 9/5 in the Haskell, but missed the break that day and never had a chance. Problem is, he’s drawn inside again today and Outplay, West Coast and Irish War Cry won’t forget about him. He’ll have to have his running shoes on from the time they say ‘go.’

Irap is intriguing, but a big underlay at 3/1. After all, this horse was 31/1 when he won the Blue Grass, 41/1 in the Derby and almost 6/1 last out when he was beaten more than 5-lengths in the Travers.

Looking for a different perspective on the Pennsylvania Derby? My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, handicapped it in his Race of the Week article.  Spoiler alert - he loves a longshot!

Question 2: Is Abel Tasman a Lock in the Cotillion?

Yes. There’s no such thing as a sure thing in racing, but Abel Tasman is as close as it gets Saturday. She’s already beaten one of her main rivals, Salty, three times this year, and her other two primary threats, It Tiz Well and Actress, were easily handled in the Alabama by a filly – Elate – that Abel Tasman had defeated in the CCA Oaks. With ample speed signed on to cater to Abel Tasman’s closing kick, she should easily handle this field and move onto the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar.

Question 3: Who Else is Worth Betting Saturday

  • In the Alphabet Soup Stakes, I’m betting TASIT (4/1). The PA-bred son of Tapit has been facing much nicer horses on the NYRA allowance circuit (Zennor, Revved Up, Call Provision) and should relish dropping in against state-breds.
  • In the PA Derby Champion Stakes, I really like PAGE MCKENNEY (6/1). Sure, he’s seven now and he’s finally showing signs of rust. But he’s 5-for-6 at Parx (including 2-for-2 this year) and draws into a perfect pace setup, as Matt King Coal and Mr. Jordan will knock heads early. They can do the dirty work and pave the way for ‘Page.’
  • The Gallant Bob is loaded, but I’m a sucker for both parts of the coupled entry – PETROV and COAL FRONT (2/1). The water got a bit deep for Coal Front in the H. Allen Jerkens on Travers Dady, but that came against Practical Joke, Takaful and American Anthem. There’s nobody that good in here. And if Coal Front can’t hold on, you’ve also got Petrov on your ticket. He blitzed a Saratoga allowance field by 4-lengths on August 4 and is starting to remind me of another Ron Moquett-trained horse named Whitmore, who dabbled in the Derby Trail last year before ultimately becoming a very talented sprinter.

Question 4: How am I Betting the Late Pick 4?

At Xpressbet, we’re giving you 1 Million reasons to bet the Late Pick 4 by way of our 1 Million Point Split. It’s free to register and easy to play. The Late Pick 4 covers three of the stakes races we discussed, and I think it can be taken down with a relatively modest ticket. Here’s my stab at it:

Race 9: 1

Race 10: 9

Race 11: 4, 5, 8

Race 12: All

Ticket Cost (50-Cents): $18.00

You may want to try a few different approaches, playing around with Abel Tasman, Coal Front/Petrov and West Coast as A/B types, just in case one is upset. But otherwise, I think it’s a relatively straightforward sequence. I’m an advocate of going deep late as the final leg, an optional claimer, could go many different directions.

No matter how you bet, I hope you enjoy Saturday’s card at Parx. It looks like a good one and there’s some money to be made – good luck!