Penn Derby, Cotillion too good to pass up for top runners

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TwinSpires Staff

September 22nd, 2016

by Dick Powell

The American class of 2013 goes out with a bang at Parx Racing this Saturday where the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (G1) and $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) will be contested. Both races attracted terrific fields as the big purses, restriction to three-year-olds and perfect timing to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup made them too attractive to pass up.

As great as SONGBIRD (Medaglia d’Oro) is, and she is great, she didn’t scare any of her major rivals away. Ten for 10 and coming off a sensational win in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga, she was back working bullets in California for Jerry Hollendorfer, who shipped her in here and draws post 5 going 1 1/16 miles.

In the Oaks last out, jockey Mike Smith rated her a bit on the lead and, even with outside pressure, she didn’t pull away until Smith asked her to. So even though her past performances lines look like a picket fence with a bunch of “1s” in her lines, she gives Smith the option to see what the inside horses do going into the first turn.

Songbird is five for five at the Cotillion distance of 1 1/16 miles, and her natural speed gives Smith the option to send, get over to the rail and play “catch me if you can.”

CARINA MIA (Malibu Moon) won two stakes in a row after trainer Bill Mott added Lasix for the first time, then gave Songbird a brief scare when she took the lead turning for home in the CCA Oaks at Saratoga. When the running got serious, she could not keep up so Mott dropped her back in distance next out and she was a good third going seven furlongs against older filly and mares at Saratoga in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) after battling for the lead right from the start.

I would think that as fast as she can be, Mott doesn’t want to get involved early and would love to make one run at Songbird in the stretch. There is some speed in here to help her out and Julien Leparoux gets the mount back from Joel Rosario.

CATHRYN SOPHIA (Street Boss) won her first four career starts by huge margins, then was upset at 1-2 in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland back in April. She bounced back with a terrific win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) but was no match for Carina Mia in the Acorn Stakes (G1) going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.

Off for three months, she returned to win the Princess of Sylmar Stakes, a prep race at Parx Racing, by 6 1/2 lengths and now looks ready for a big race. I like the race-over-the-track angle and she gets Javier Castellano, who rode her to victory in the Kentucky Oaks.

If an upset does occur, look for DISCO ROSE (Weigelia) to play a role. I don’t think that there is any chance she can win but she has good early speed, draws well with regular rider Edwin Rivera and gets seven pounds from the others. Rivera will probably send her to the front from post 3 and she might take away Smith’s ability to dominate this on the front end with Songbird.

The Pennsylvania Derby (G2) drew a field of 12 and it includes NYQUIST (Uncle Mo) and EXAGGERATOR (Curlin), the respective winners of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).

Nyquist hasn’t run since the Haskell Invitational (G1) at the end of July and trainer Doug O’Neill has been giving him one-mile stamina building breezes to get him back in shape. Winner of his first eight starts, he was beaten in his last two and I think he has to be back at his best to win here.

Exaggerator is an enigma that has run some horrible races this year in and around some terrific ones. His 11th placing in the Travers Stakes (G1), beaten 33 lengths, was dreadful and he comes back on four-weeks rest for Keith Desormeaux, who is hard to second guess with his success with this colt. Still, it’s been a long season and I don’t see him bringing his “A” game in this spot.

GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride) was amazing in the Travers as he raced wide from post 13 but somehow wound up on the inside on the far turn. The two Bob Baffert runners were dominating and he was the only one that made any kind of run at the leaders before tiring in the lane. He ran poorly in the Haskell on a sloppy track while racing wide and I would not like to see a wet track on Saturday but it would be no surprise if he jumped up and threw in a big race.

That takes care of the logical contenders, let’s look for someone to pull off an upset.

CONNECT (Curlin) is 12-1 on the morning line and has a big shot. He romped in an allowance race on the Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard in a fast time in only his second start of the year then came back in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga and won by a measured length as Johnny Velazquez kept him off the rail.

In the Travers Stakes, Connect had all sorts of trouble at the start when he veered in and was not able to get involved with the early pace. Heading into the clubhouse turn, he had to steady when a longshot got into trouble and wound up seven lengths behind going down the backstretch.

From that point forward, he had no visible excuse but any chance he had against the Baffert duo was lost in the first quarter-mile. Considering how lightly raced he is with only five career starts, Connect might still have some upside and if he does, he might be catching some tired horses at the right time of the season.