Horses I'll be watching on Pennsylvania Derby Day
The most important racing action on Saturday takes place at Parx Racing outside Philadelphia, where the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and $1 million Cotillion (G1) serve as likely final Breeders' Cup preps for several three-year-olds.
Here are some random thoughts on those two events plus the two stakes preceding them.
$150,000 Bayern -- Unless the track is tilted in favor of early speed like it was last year, CLASSIC GIACNROLL seems to be coming into this race with a lot of momentum. Although a bit of a money burner with three times as many seconds and thirds as wins, this gelding should appreciate the extra yardage after falling a bit short to MARKET BLASTER in a local allowance three weeks ago. He also has a touch of back class having run a good second to the classy Protonico in the Smarty Jones (G3) last season.
ENCRYPTION didn't quite live up to expectations on the step back up to graded stakes company in the spring after a blowout allowance score at Gulfstream. He also flopped against allowance foes at Monmouth in mid-June, but has had some time off since and enters with a solid string of works. This field is nowhere near as tough as the Skip Away (G3) or Pimlico Special (G3).
$300,000 Gallant Bob (G3) -- LIMOUSINE LIBERAL will take most of the money and the beating off his second in the King's Bishop (G1). However, GRAND BILI had more backing going into that seven-furlong dash and simply regressed a bit off his win in the Carry Back (G3), dropping from a 108 to a 101 BRIS Speed rating. He has a chance to revert back to his best form here while Limousine Liberal has the potential to bounce off a career-best effort.
HEBBRONVILLE is a perfect three-for-three over this track and could make it four in a row with the right pace set-up and if the track is playing fairly to all styles.
$1 million Cotillion (G1) -- A lot of bettors won't be cutting EMBELLISH THE LACE much slack after she enjoyed an relatively easy trip in taking the Alabama (G1). While it's true she hasn't won without being on or close to the pace, and likely won't be allowed to steal this one without a fight, it's also hard to imagine her getting into a suicidal duel like in the Mother Goose (G1). She's won over this track, has a lot more class than most of these, and might deserve more credit than she'll get for that recent win.
I'M A CHATTERBOX was the only one that really closed behind Embellish the Lace's moderate Alabama pace, and is arguably the most consistent of this year's crop of three-year-old dirt fillies. She'll be tough to beat.
TARA'S TANGO bravely dueled the talented Stellar Wind to a nose decision in the Summertime Oaks (G2) two back and looks dangerous. PEACE AND WAR has improved considerably since joining the Graham Motion barn, comes in fresh and would benefit from a hot pace.
$1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) -- If the concept of class has any meaning, FROSTED should win this race. Few in this generation have ever made American Pharoah sweat like this one did in the Travers (G1).
One colt who might run better than expected is IRON FIST, who was well-backed in the West Virginia Derby (G2) but hung late after attempting to bid inside of rivals in the stretch. Despite being a few paths off the rail, being closer to it than his opposition still wasn't the best place to be over that track.
Highlighting the betting menu on Pennsylvania Derby Day is an All-Stakes Pick 4, which is the focal point of TwinSpires.com's two 1-Million Points Hit It and Split It prizes. Complete details can be found here.
(Grand Bili photo: Adam Coglianese Photography)