Will popular Cotillion provide clarity to three-year-old dirt filly division?

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

September 14th, 2015

As one of the more lucrative races of its kind in the country, the $1 million Cotillion (G1) at Parx Racing has enjoyed a resurgance in popularity among the nation's leading three-year-old fillies in recent years.

Since 2008, when the purse was raised to $750,000, the Cotillion has attracted eventual divisional champions Proud Spell, Blind Luck, Questing, and Untapable. Although Untapable was the only one of the four to leave with a victory, the race has also been won this decade by juvenile champ My Miss Aurelia and future Eclipse Award winners Havre de Grace and Close Hatches.

In this respect the Cotillion has come full circle. Inaugurated in the same year (1969) as pari-mutuel Thoroughbred racing in Pennsylvania, the 1 1/16-mile event became an immediate proving ground for future champions. During its first eight years of existence, the Cotillion was won by Hall of Fame inductees Shuvee and Susan's Girl, three-year-old champions Office Queen and Revidere, and champion sprinter My Juliet.

Unlike some recent editions, there will be no heavy favorite in Saturday's renewal of the Cotillion. Indeed, the results might actually provide some clarity for a division in desperate need of some.

Embellish the Lace will attempt to continue a belated rally for divisional honors when she breaks from post 3 under Javier Castellano. Unplaced after dueling in the Mother Goose (G1) in June, the Tony Dutrow charge had an easier time of it in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, setting a moderate pace and holding off the late bid of I'm a Chatterbox by 1 1/4 lengths.

That rival, a three-time stakes winner at Fair Grounds last winter, has also placed in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), the latter when she was demoted from first to second for interference. The most consistent of these year's sophomore fillies on dirt, she, too, can enhance her championship credentials with a victory.

Looking for their second major wins of the season are Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner Keen Pauline, who is coupled with Summertime Oaks (G2) runner-up Tara's Tango, and Calamity Kate, who upset the Delaware Oaks (G2) at odds of 54-1 two months ago.

Others likely to attract play are last year's Alcibiades (G1) heroine Peace and War, twice second in stakes at Delaware since joining the Graham Motion barn in the spring, and 2014 juvenile champion Take Charge Brandi, who makes her second start following a six-month layoff. In her August 8 return, she faded to last in the seven-furlong Test (G1) after setting a contested pace.

The Saturday card at Parx also features the $300,000 Gallant Bob (G3), a six-furlong dash for three-year-olds. King's Bishop (G1) runner-up Limousine Liberal figures to be a solid favorite over Grade 3 scorers Grand Bili and Hebbronville, as well as multiple stakes winner Catalina Red.

The open stakes action kicks off with a $150,000, 1 1/16-mile event for older horses that in future will honor the previous year's Pennsylvania Derby (G2) winner. This year the race will be run as the Bayern.

(Embellish the Lace photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)