The Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby is proving to be a key race each year, thanks in large part to its $1 million purse. Hosted by Parx Racing, it will go forward as race 11 at 6:16 EST. A marquee field of eight has gathered, including Travers dead heat winners Alpha and Golden Ticket.
Stephanoatsee (A.P. Indy x Oatsee by Unbridled) 12-1: The hopes have always been high for this half brother to champion Shackleford. He hasn’t been up to the task just yet, but was last seen winning an allowance race at Delaware over a wet fast track. The track was not playing to his running style, yet he won anyway. Trainer Graham Motion has rewarded Sheldon Russell for that good ride by giving the call in today’s race. A big move forward must happen for him to win, but it is within the realm of possibility.
Casual Trick (Bernardini x Casual Look by Red Ransom) 8-1: This bay ridgling looked like a Kentucky Derby contender after finishing second beaten ½ length in the Gulfstream Park Derby all the way back in January. However, he just wasn’t the same in three subsequent races. Nick Zito gave him some time off and it appears to have helped as he has reeled off consecutive allowance victories, both over this track. Kentucky Derby winning jockey Stewart Elliot will retain the mount.
Handsome Mike (Scat Daddy x Classic Strike by Smart Strike) 20-1: Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill under the listed name of assistant trainer Leandro Mora will saddle this colt for Derby winning owner Paul Reddam. His works are perky, but if he were to put it together here, it would be the first time since breaking his maiden as a juvenile. In the end, there is more to dislike than to like. Irad Ortiz will pick up the mount.
Alpha (Bernardini x Munnaya by Nijinsky II) 9-5: The small bay colt barely got there in time to claim a dead heat victory with Golden Ticket in the Travers Stakes. Before that he was an easy winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes. His two trips outside of New York have been his worst efforts. Even knowing that, he still looks strong. He is the best three-year-old left, merely by attrition. Can he win this race? Of course he can. Is he a good bet at odds of 9-5? Probably not. Ramon Dominguez stays up for Kiaran McLaughlin.
Junebugred (Corinthian x Dixie Melody by Dixieland Band) 20-1: Looked like one of the best sophomores in the land after annexing the Smarty Jones Stakes, but he just hasn’t been the same since. It’s hard to picture him “waking up” given his recent efforts. Alex Cintron rides for trainer Steve Hobby.
Golden Ticket (Speightstown x Business Plan by Deputy Minister) 5-2: There were rumblings on the backstretch that this colt was sitting on a big race and it turned out that those rumors were true. He fired a huge shot to dead heat with Alpha in the Travers at odds of 34-1. It was extremely impressive given that he had not raced since early May. Today, handicappers must ask themselves if he will move forward or bounce after such a gigantic run. The answer to that question will decide if he wins or not. David Cohen stays aboard for Ken McPeek.
Csaba (Kitten’s Joy x High Chant by High Chant by War Chant) 5-1: Front running colt will be racing with theft on his mind. Phillip Gleaves has equipped blinkers for this race and Rajiv Maragh is likely to exit the gate with guns blazing. He has produced some big runs that would be good enough to win here and is almost certainly going to be an overlay from his morning line price. There is plenty to like on this one.
Macho Macho (Macho Uno x Dazzling Contrast by General Meeting) 4-1: When last seen he was a ½ length victor in the West Virginia Derby. The second place finisher there, Bourbon Courage, returned to win the Super Derby by five lengths. That’s a nice vote of confidence for this guy. It looks like the extra distance of this race is just what the doctor ordered. If he gets a healthy pace, look for him to make a big run under Corey Nakatani. Steve Asmussen is the trainer.
I’m going to take a flyer on Csaba here. He should make the lead and could get brave if they allow him to go slow enough. Some of his past figures are good enough to win in this spot, so it is worth taking a shot at what projects to be a healthy price. You can bet him at Twin Spires by clicking the banner above!