Three Plays on an Excellent Pennsylvania Derby card

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TwinSpires Staff

September 17th, 2015

Handicapping Insights

By Dick Powell

Parx Racing has a sensational racing program scheduled for this Saturday and with cooperative weather in the forecast, it should be a big day for the racetrack situated north of Philadelphia. When you examine the entries and see a couple of $84K maiden special weight races to start the day and a pair of $1 million stakes races, you might think that the Saratoga meet was extended.

A word of caution going into Saturday’s races is Parx’s onerous takeout rates, which leads me to primarily watch the races for Breeders’ Cup implications and bet the win pool. Despite a large dole from the casino operation, nothing has trickled down to the horseplayer as Parx taxes us to the tune of 17% for Win/Place/Show, 20% for Daily Doubles and Exactas, 26% on Pick Threes and an outrageous 30% on Trifectas and Superfectas. If I see something I like, I’ll play a win bet and maybe protect it with an exacta or two.

The graded stakes action kicks off in race eight, the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) for 3YOs going six furlongs on the main track. The morning line favorite is LIMOUSINE LIBERAL (Successful Appeal) who is coming off a second-place finish in the King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in only his third career start. That was the race where the first two finishers came out of Ellis Park to beat the big boys.

The horse I liked last time, GRAND BILI (City Zip), returns off a fifth-place finish in the King’s Bishop when he chased the pace down on the inside. He draws post 7 Saturday and should get a much better stalking trip with Javier Castellano back aboard. The turn back to six furlongs should be no problem since he won the Carry Back Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park two races back at the distance in a fast time. At a morning line of 4-to-1, he should be a solid win bet.

Race nine is the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (G1) for 3YO fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The large purse attracted a field of 12 and includes the recent winner of the Alabama Stakes (G1), EMBELLISH THE LACE (Super Saver), who broke her maiden at Parx by 10 lengths in her two-turn debut.

Facing Embellish the Lace are five other graded stakes winners who have done their best running going two turns. Parx Racing on Pennsylvania Derby (G2) day is usually contested over a very fast track so I don’t want someone that will be rallying from too far back.

Breaking from the rail where she can let the early speed go but still get a good trip while saving ground is TARA’S TANGO (Unbridled’s Song). Her BRIS Speed ratings are not far behind the rest and she has the aura of a filly getting better that has been pointed for this race. She missed by a nose in the Summertime Oaks (G2) in her two-turn debut at Santa Anita behind a next-out winner.

The half-sister to two graded stakes winners, Tara’s Tango came back at Del Mar and beat allowance foes easily in a two-turn mile. Since then, she has worked brilliantly for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and gets Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith back in the irons. I like how she was able to relax off the pace last out and finish effortlessly.

Coupled with Stonestreet Stable entrymate KEEN PAULINE (Pulpit), winner of the Black Eyed Susan Stakes (G2), Tara’s Tango is listed at 8-to-1 on the morning line and should be at least that price.

The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) did not get Triple Crown winner AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof the Nile) but did attract a solid field of 10 3YOs with their last chance of racing for big money against their own generation.

Heading the field is Wood Memorial (G1) winner FROSTED (Tapit) who gave American Pharoah all he could handle for the first nine furlongs of the Travers Stakes (G1) three weeks ago. The key here is three week ago and how hard he ran before emptying out in the final furlong.

Frosted was a tired horse in the stretch and I can’t see how he can bounce back here on relatively short rest. Yes, it is his third start off the layoff and yes, he gets reunited with Joel Rosario who was injured right before the Travers. But he is a classic bet against as the favorite.

If you are looking for a price in here, take a look at ISLAND TOWN (Hard Spun). He stretched out to two turns for the first time and won the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs last June. He came back in the Indiana Derby (G2) but raced evenly on a sloppy track, beaten almost five lengths.

Last out, he captured the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) at Parx by almost seven lengths carrying 124 pounds and earned a career-best BRIS Speed rating of 101. I like the win over the track and Island Town has enough tactical speed to sit just off the pace and make the first run. If he moves up off the Smarty Jones, Tara’s Tango can pull the upset. is offering the Penn Derby: 1 Million Points Hit It and Split It Pick 4 promotion on Saturday. Highlighting the betting menu on Pennsylvania Derby day is an All-Stakes Pick 4, which is the focal point of our two 1-Million Points Hit It and Split It prizes this Saturday. Complete details: