by Brian Nadeau
September 20, 2017
All eyes will be on Parx Racing Saturday, and for good reason, as they host a pair of $1 million grade I races for 3yos, in the Pennsylvania Derby for the boys and Cotillion for the girls. Parx, with an influx of slot money over the years, has built up both races the hard way, from relative middle of the pack stakes, to a pair of legitimate grade I championship caliber races, and Saturday’s duo are no different, as both could easily crown a champion.
The Pennsylvania Derby was a bit late to the grade I party, as this is the first year it will be run with top billing, but it certainly has earned the label, as “now” horse West Coast is here off his rousing Travers win, and would (somewhat sadly) put a stranglehold on a divisional championship with a win for Bob Baffert. Of course, that’s due in large part because the three Triple Crown race winners this year—Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit—have done absolutely zilch to back up those wins. West Coast will take a lot of beating Saturday, but don’t forget the Pennsylvania Derby is at 1 1/8 miles, and the Travers was at 1 ¼ miles, and that could level the playing field a bit.
Irap probably benefits the most on the cutback, as he looked a surefire winner off the far turn of the Travers then came up wanting and finished 3rd. it’s also noteworthy that trainer Doug O’Neill could have run Pavel, who looked awesome winning the local prep, the Smarty Jones (GIII), but opted to stick to his original plan and only run Irap. That tells me he’s doing pretty darn good, and as a guy who picked and bet him in the Travers, I’m not willing to get off the bandwagon just yet. Irap can’t win a championship Saturday, but he can firmly throw his hat in the ring, especially if he can make a dent against older horses before the year is out.
Irish War Cry would be a shocking champion, but it is easy to forget he did win the Holy Bull (GII) and Wood Memorial (GII) this winter before his form failed him. Personally, I’m over Irish War Cry, but I have the utmost respect for Graham Motion, so if he’s running him here, then he’s probably ready to fire. Of course, that really hasn’t been good enough against the better 3yos and I wouldn’t expect it to be Saturday either.
Timeline is a bit of unknown, as he beat no one of any significance in his first four wins, then was pretty bad in the Haskell (GI), though to be fair, he didn’t have a great trip either. He also drew inside, and there’s plenty of speed to his outside, so he’s going to have to run hard every step of the way, which puts him in a tough spot, especially since he may not be good enough anyway.
I’ll bet Irap to win and box him with West Coast while hoping the class of the Travers, and their recent overall form, rules the day.
The Cotillion also brings a Baffert would-be champion in Abel Tasman, who may already have sewn up divisional honors off a trip of grade I wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks, but would really make it hard for anyone else to reach her with a win Saturday. The thing is though, she really has ever run very fast, and, at 4/5, as gamblers we are supposed to play against her. Plus, she’s had a lot of dream trips while her rivals haven’t. so yeah, she is a legitimate 4/5, but that doesn’t mean we have to bet on her.
Salty will like the cutback from the 1 ¼ miles in the Alabama, and while she has had a lot of trouble, Abel Tasman beat her in all three grade I’s, and pretty soundly in two of them. Yet she still always gets bet. So I’ll play against her and try to get her out of the exacta, especially since I think she’ll make her true calling at one-turn (and I have no idea why Mark Casse keeps trying her long and at two turns).
I’m not banking on an upset happening, but it if does, maybe it’s by a filly who can get close to what looks like a moderate pace and get first run on the favorite off the far turn. It Tiz Well could be that gal, and she proved when 2nd in the Alabama, after setting a very sharp pace, that her win in the Delaware Oaks (GIII) was no fluke. Sure, she’s still looking up at the big girl, but at three or four times the price, I’m willing to take a shot.
Actress and Lockdown will get bet too, and they aren’t without hope if they run a lifetime best, but neither is all that trustworthy and both ran poorly in said Alabama, that was run with a sharp pace that, in theory, should have flattered their late runs.
I’ll bet It Tiz Well to win at 6-1 or higher, and definitely box her in the exacta with Abel Tasman.