The Jury: Bets and fades for Sept. 24

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TwinSpires Staff

September 23rd, 2022

The TwinSpires Jury — Kellie Reilly, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson —  this week takes a look at Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby Day card and the "Downs After Dark" program at Churchill Downs for the weekend's best plays.

What is your best bet?

Kellie Reilly: In an open-looking Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx on Saturday, #8 Witty (12-1) makes sense, especially at the price. The half-brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Caravel has never been out of the exacta sprinting, and his only poor efforts have come when trying to route. The last time he was coming off a two-turn flop, Witty outclassed them in the restricted Stanton S. at Delaware, so there's precedent for a swift rebound. If not for a slow start in the Jersey Shore S. two back, he arguably would have finished a nearer second to Gallant Bob morning-line favorite Provocateur. With a better break, and pace on tap, Witty promises to be in gear late.

Vance Hanson: I don't tend to gravitate toward likely favorites in this space, but #2 Home Brew (5-2) still figures to be a bettable price in the Bourbon Trail S. at Churchill Downs on Saturday night. Dry conditions should prevail in Louisville, and Home Brew's only missteps to date have come over sloppy tracks. The most recent case was in the West Virginia Derby (G3) last out, when a slow start compounded the problem. Home Brew will race with blinkers on, which hopefully helps resolve any gate issues, and he looms a threat to build on his very good performance in the Pegasus S. over the summer.

Ashley Anderson: #1 Green Up (6-1) will move up in class to face Kentucky Oaks (G1) hero Secret Oath and seven more talented fillies in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx on Saturday. While bettors are likely to favor #6 Secret Oath (2-1) or #2 Adare Manor (7-2), who's back in the barn of Bob Baffert, Green Up has an excellent chance from the rail post in her second career start at Parx, where the Upstart three-year-old won the Cathryn Sophia S. by 3 3/4 lengths at last asking. The Todd Pletcher pupil is 2-for-2 from today's distance and posted a career-best 104 Brisnet Speed rating last out when running a mile and 70 yards. Irad Ortiz Jr. will retain the mount in the fillly's fifth start this season. She is 4-for-4 thus far in 2022.

Who is the horse to fade?

KR: As much respect as I have for #5 Cyberknife (3-1) in Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby (G1), my instinctive reflex is to be cautious about a horse popping up in a major race that wasn't the plan. Perhaps I'm being too strict in applying a general principle to this particular circumstance, but it does fit the possible scenario of a bridge too far. In the immediate aftermath of his game second in the Travers (G1), the talk was looking ahead to the Breeders' Cup. Trainer Brad Cox's comments following the Penn Derby draw sounded like wanting to take the final opportunity of a Grade 1 in his division. I don't doubt that Cyberknife is giving Cox the right signal to proceed, but too many times, you can't know until the crucible of a race itself. He's been on the go for a long while, and turned in three consecutive new tops (according to Brisnet Speed ratings). Can he muster a fourth, or equal his best, in a very competitive race where he doesn't enter with a decisive edge?

VH: Although she temporarily escapes Nest on Saturday, #6 Secret Oath (2-1) is still facing a competitive field in the Cotillion at Parx. She figures dangerous, especially if she displays that patented turn of foot to reach contention, but the fear is she hasn't built appreciably on her victory in the Kentucky Oaks in May. It's seemingly been a grueling campaign, and at a short price she might be vulnerable facing relatively fresher rivals.

AA: #4 Ninetyprcentmaddie (9-5) in the 6 1/2-furlong Prince Lucky S. at Parx on Saturday will stretch out in distance after winning the 5 1/2-furlong Whistle Pig S. at this track on Aug. 22. While he triumphed by a commanding 3 1/2 lengths and beat a handful of today’s rivals, I like the chances of #6 Gordian Knot (2-1), who romped to a seven-length victory on debut in a $60,000 maiden special weight at Parx and will keep high-percentage jockey Mychel Sanchez in the saddle. #9 In Spades (5-1) also looks like a viable contender for Todd Pletcher after failing as the favorite in the maiden special weight won by Gordian Knot. The War Front grandson has posted a couple of fast workouts in the interim and will get Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons while breaking from the outside post.

What else is worth noting?

KR: There's a common theme running through Saturday's Cotillion at Parx and the Dogwood (G3) at Churchill Downs later that night: can once-dominant fillies re-impose themselves on improving rivals? The Dogwood marks the return of champion #1 Echo Zulu, who was last seen being a vet scratch going to post for the Acorn (G1). Reverting to seven furlongs in her comeback is the right idea, but has last year's two-year-old filly sensation lost her advantage with the passing of time? Although her Steve Asmussen stablemate, #7 Wicked Halo, is the most accomplished alternative (if both run), I'm intrigued by #4 Tarabi (4-1). The Cherie DeVaux trainee was an understudy to Echo Zulu as a juvenile, but her full brother peaked as an older horse in Japan, and Tarabi could be poised for a breakthrough performance. It's a similar story in the Cotillion, where #6 Secret Oath aims to bounce back from recent losses to Nest and previously to males. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has said that she's thriving with maturity, and that comports with both sides of her pedigree. Yet Secret Oath hasn't raced with the same swagger as earlier in the season. Now she meets several fillies on the rise, and a potentially revived #2 Adare Manor (7-2).

VH: Having expressed our concerns about Secret Oath above, it's only fair to reveal that the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of #7 Shahama (8-1) and #1 Green Up (6-1), in that order, appeal to us most in the Cotillion. Shahama has shown improved tactical foot since finishing midpack in the Kentucky Oaks behind Secret Oath, and figures to be well-positioned in a race with a lot of speed. Green Up is undefeated in four starts since joining the Pletcher barn, including a tremendous effort in last month's Cathryn Sophia S., a prep over the Parx strip. If she can avoid a bounce off that career-best effort, she also figures to make some noise.

AA: The 20-cent Derby City-6 on Churchill's Saturday card will start in Race 6 with a $120,000 maiden special weight with an overflow field of 14. Among the entrants is #12 Carcano (8-1), a son of current leading first-crop sire Bolt d'Oro, whose progeny have earned $1,248,268 to date. Carcano is out of the stakes-placed Nite in Rome by Harlan's Holiday, who won the 2001 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill, and the two-year-old has recorded several sharp workouts at Keeneland ahead of his debut. Bolt d'Oro's first-time starters are winning at a 23% rate, and Carcano can earn the Medaglia d'Oro son his 17th win from 53 runners.