Mandaloun (pink cap) and Hot Rod Charlie (white cap) battle for the lead in the stretch of the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Multiple marquee names have been nominated on what promises to be a blockbuster day of racing on dirt and turf on Pennsylvania Derby Day at Parx Racing, Saturday, Sept. 25.
The 41st Running of the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-olds has drawn as many as 33 nominations for a chance to start in the 1 1/8-mile event on the main track.
The Pennsylvania Derby will cap off eight additional stakes races, five graded, and returns after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The race has built itself into an important date to the racing calendar since its inaugural run in 1979, and received Grade 1 status in 2017. It now serves as the last start for 3-year-olds before they go on to face older horses in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, Calif.
Roadrunner Racing, William Strauss, Boat Racing and Gainesway Stable’s Hot Rod Charlie will return east once again from his home base in Del Mar, California after finishing first in the Grade 1 Haskell on July 17 at Monmouth Park. The Doug O’Neill trainee was subsequently disqualified after a steward’s inquiry and placed seventh for drifting in and interfering with rival Midnight Bourbon during the stretch drive.
The colt by Oxbow would make his sixth start of the year from as many tracks at Parx, but still has to prove to his connections that he is ready to go.
“We’re still a few works away, but we’re real optimistic about Charlie’s next stop, the Pennsylvania Derby,” O’Neill said. “The race looks to be coming up tough, which one would expect with a million dollars on the line.”
The Kentucky-bred broke his maiden in his fourth start as a 2-year-old, then finished second to Essential Quality at long odds of 94 to 1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland. He returned to place third in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita before winning the Louisiana Derby (G2) by two lengths over Midnight Bourbon at Fair Grounds.
Hot Rod Charlie finished third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) then placed second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) before pointing to the Haskell.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert owns three victories in the PA Derby with McKinzie , West Coast  and Bayern in , and might send three with the hope of adding his fourth win to the list.
Zedan Racing Stables Medina Spirit returned to the winners’ circle for the first time since his front-running victory in the Kentucky Derby, and did so after leading five others from start to finish in the Shared Belief Stakes on Aug. 29 at Del Mar. The victories bookended a third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, and joined his only other victory this year which came in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita.
The Florida-bred colt by Prontonico impressed his Hall of Fame trainer with his latest effort.
“Medina ran well. He was ready for that the other day,” Baffert said. “He came back and he was not even blowing. He looks really good right now. I think he is better than he was before the Derby. He has been able to grow up a little bit. People don’t realize it’s tough on those horses to keep going and going. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to horses that ran in the Derby and are still running. They go through a lot.
“He needed to run. That’s why I ran him in the Shared Belief. I think, to me, I would rather keep him with straight 3-year-olds even though the older horse division is sort of wide open right now. These 3-year-olds, this is when they start catching up to the older horses. I like to breeze them after they have run to see how they are doing. That will have a lot to do with it.”
Baffert’s remaining pair under consideration is the Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and the Paul Weitman-owned Defunded, who is coming off a win against allowance company at Del Mar following two runner-up finishes in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita and the Los Alamitos Derby (G3).
The colt by Dialed In began the year breaking his maiden at Santa Anita then place fourth in both the Santa Anita Derby and Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs respectively.
Little Red Feather Racing’s Bobby Bo is being considered off of his second-place finish behind Americanrevolution in the Albany Stakes for NY-breds at Saratoga on Aug. 27. The colt by Speightster did not race as a 2-year-old, and broke his maiden in his third start before shipping from Del Mar to Saratoga.
The next two weeks will determine who goes and who stays put for the Baffert runners.
“I like to see how they are doing. How they are training,” said Baffert. “Whoever is doing well, great. Then they go. I let them tell me, how they’re training. I don’t know, they are going to have to show me in the mornings. I have had a lot of luck there because I have brought really good horses up there. They work hard there [Parx]. Every time we have gone there, everyone is very nice. They do a good job.”
West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm LLC, Bobby Flay and Woodford Racing LLC’s First Captain would make just his fifth career start in the Pennsylvania Derby, but brings a strong resume after winning his first two starts and the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. The Kentucky-bred colt by Curlin followed up with a third-place finish in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
If First Captain breaks from the gate in the Pennsylvania Derby it would be the first for Terry Finley, the President and CEO of West Point Thoroughbreds, and a homecoming as well.
“That’s where I cut my teeth in the business,” Finley said. “I grew up about 20 minutes away from Parx, which, at that time, was Keystone. I have always dreamed about going back there with a legitimate shot to run well in the Pennsylvania Derby. It is going to be a great race. It will be a lot of fun.”
Other probables under consideration are: Arindel’s Alonzo for trainer Juan Alvarado; CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Americanrevolution for trainer Todd Pletcher; Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon Thunder for trainer Ian Wilkes; Calumet Farm’s Bourbonic for trainer Todd Pletcher; Nice Guys Stables, Manganaro Bloodstock, and Steve Homstocks’ Defeater for trainer Tom Amoss; Godolphin LLC’s Essential Quality for trainer Brad Cox; SAB Stable’s Everett’s Song for trainer Dale Bennett; Jerry Namy’s Flash of Mischief for trainer Karl Broberg; Spendthrift Farm’s Following Sea for trainer Todd Pletcher; Juddmonte’s Fulsome for trainer Brad Cox; Lawrence A. Rebbecchi Jr.’s I Am Redeemed for trainer Penny G. Pearce; Cypress Creek Equine, Bennewith, Arnold and Spendthrift Farm’s Keepmeinmind for trainer Robertino Diodoro; Three Chimneys Farm and Fem Circle Stables King Fury for trainer Ken McPeek; SMD Ltd’s Leader of the Band for trainer John Servis; CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good for trainer Todd Pletcher; Allied Racing Stable’s Lovely Ride for trainer W. Bret Calhoun; Madaket Stables, Kent Spellman, and Wonder Stables’ Marion Francis for trainer Brad Cox; Winchell Thoroughbreds Midnight Bourbon for trainer Steve Asmussen.
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The 52nd Running of the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion to be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track has drawn 17 sophomore fillies nominated for the race
Beach Haven Thoroughbreds, Medallion Racing, Parkland Thoroughbreds and Barry Fowler’s Maracuja returns off her seventh-place finish in the Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, after previously winning the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga by a head over Malathaat. The Rob Atras-trained filly by Honor Code broke her maiden in her second start this year then finished second in the Gazelle Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Kentucky-bred Army Wife debuted against graded stakes company in the Gazelle and finished third before winning the George E. Mitchell Black Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico and the Iowa Oaks (G3) at Prairie Meadows. Trained by Michael Maker, the filly by Declaration of War then shipped north to Saratoga and finished third in the Alabama.
Phoenix Thoroughbred III owned Crazy Beautiful is another nominated who is looking to rebound off performance in the Alabama Stakes after finishing sixth in the field of seven. The filly by Liam’s Map brings the most graded stakes experience to the mix and would make her 10th graded stakes start in the Pennsylvania Derby for trainer Ken McPeek. The multiple graded stakes winner owns victories in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita and the Delaware Park Oaks (G3).
Other marquee probables nominated to the Cotillion are: Slam Dunk Racing, Saffie Joseph Jr., Daniel Damen and Dominique Damico’s Allworthy for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.; Three Chimneys Farm LLC’s Always Carina for trainer Chad Brown; Michael Imperio, Vincent Scuderi, Gabrielle Farm, Mazel Stable Partners LLC and Matthew Mercurio’s Bella Sofia for trainer Rudy Rodriguez; Stonestreet Stable’s Clairiere for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The 29th Running of the $300,000, Grade 3, Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds to be run at six furlongs on the main track
Multiple graded stakes winner Jackie’s Warrior is in search of his third straight victory after winning the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) and the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. The Kentucky-bred trained by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and owned by Kirk and Judy Robison owns seven wins from 10 starts including the Runhappy Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old.
Other probables being nominated are: Mopo Racing’s Alwaysinahurry for trainer Dale Capuano; John Fanelli, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing LLC, Paul Braverman, and Timothy Pinch’s Awesome Gerry for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., St. Omer’s Farm, and Christopher Feifarek’s Beren trained by Robert Reid Jr.; Three Chimney’s Farm and e Five Racing Thoroughbred’s Collaborate for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.; Charles McGIll’s Cry No More for trainer Kieron McGee; Slam Dunk Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Wonder Stables and Michael Nenlwig’s Drain the Clock for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
Completing the undercard of Stakes races are:
$200,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap (PA-Bred) 3 YO & Up 1 & 1/16 Miles (Turf)
$200,000 Plum Pretty (PA-Bred) 3 YO & Up Fillies & Mares 1 & 1/16 Miles
$200,000 Parx Dirt Mile – Listed 3 YO & Up 1 Mile
$200,000 Greenwood Cup (G3) 3 YO & Up 1 & 1/2 Miles
$200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) 3 YO & Up Fillies & Mare 1 & 1/16 Miles (Turf)
$300,000 Turf Monster (G3) 3 YO & Up 5 Furlongs (Turf)
The complete list of nominations will be finalized on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
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