Meet the Contenders: Pennsylvania Derby | Parx | Saturday, September 23, 2023

Parx’s signature race, the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, puts the 3-year-olds on center stage in Grade 1 company before potential forays into the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Dirt Mile divisions. The race attracted 12 aspirants at Tuesday’s post position draw for Saturday’s mile and one-eighth test. The PA Derby is Race 13 of 14 on the Parx card that begins at 11:35 am ET and includes the Grade 1 Cotillion among 10 stakes.

Horseplayers at Xpressbet can take part in Saturday’s $500 Pennsylvania Derby Challenge Handicapping Contest and possibly earn your way into the field with just a $40 investment in feeder tournaments Tuesday and Wednesday.

Let’s meet the contenders for the Pennsylvania Derby:

#1-Modern Era (Uriah St. Lewis / Patrick Henry Jr.) 50-1
Locally based 8-race maiden will be longest shot on the board in his stakes debut. Son of Honor Code lacks early speed and likely makes no impact on the race shape.

#2-Dreamlike (Todd Pletcher / Irad Ortiz Jr.) 10-1
Wood Memorial third-place finisher was just a head away from glory in his only prior stakes bid. He was a maiden then, but since added a Saratoga maiden win before a disappointing Spa allowance effort. Good draw for the Gun Runner colt as Pletcher aims for his first PA Derby since Harlan’s Holiday in 2002.

#3-Saudi Crown (Brad Cox / Florent Geroux) 7-2
Hard-luck runner-up in both the Dwyer at Belmont and Jim Dandy at Saratoga, dropping nose photos to Fort Bragg and Forte. His two prior starts were sprint victories, so he’ll be looking for his first stakes win and first route in in the same swoop. Top performer to date for 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming at stud. Early pace interest expected.

#4-Magic Tap (Steve Asmussen / Tyler Gaffalione) 5-1
Lightly raced Tapit colt has just 4 starts since debuting at Keeneland in April. Has won two of three route bids and is a head runner-up away from perfection around two turns, though yet to try a stakes race. Should be part of the early pace battle drawn just outside speedy Saudi Crown. North America’s all-time winningest trainer Steve Asmussen seeks his first PA Derby trophy.

#5-Scotland (Bill Mott / Junior Alvarado) 6-1
Good Magic colt looks to bounce back from a sixth-place Travers run, the only race of his career in which he’s not been first or second. Won Saratoga’s Curlin prior to that in wire-to-wire fashion. May not be as fast early as Saudi Crown and Magic Tap, but could also want to be in the early mix … though has won races from the front and back. Trainer Mott won this race in 1998 with Rock and Roll as well as 2011 with To Honor And Serve.

#6-Daydreaming Boy (Louis Linder Jr. / Dexter Haddock) 12-1
Parx-based contender has 4 local wins and was third in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones vs. PA Derby return rival Il Miracolo. Trainer Linder looks for his first graded stakes victory. Son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, who sired 2019 PA Derby neck runner-up By My Standards.

#7-West Coast Cowboy (Saffie Joseph Jr. / Tyler Conner) 12-1
West Virginia Derby runner-up brings trainer Joseph back to the scene of some of his most important wins, including Math Wizard’s 2019 Pennsylvania Derby score at 31-1 (also exiting the WV Derby). Yet to win in stakes company and note both victories have come when able to attend the early pace, which may be crowded to his inside Saturday.

#8-Gilmore (Brendan Walsh / John Velazquez) 10-1
Grade 1 Woody Stephens third-place finisher has dropped all 6 stakes decisions in his career, but rarely runs a bad race. It’s been a career-best year for trainer Walsh, who has taken over the controls successfully with this former Bob Baffert trainee. Walsh also has stable star Pretty Mischievous, the 2023 Kentucky Oaks winner, along on the Parx roadtrip as the Cotillion Stakes headliner.

#9-Crupi (Todd Pletcher / TBD) 15-1
Rides a two-race winning streak into his stakes debut, a far different outlook for a horse who had lost the first 7 races of his career. Curlin colt was far back this spring in the Risen Star and Wood Memorial when trying to get a grip on the Triple Crown trail. Joins Dreamlike as an uncoupled entry for Pletcher, who aims for his first PA Derby since Harlan’s Holiday in 2002.

#11-Il Miracolo (Antonio Sano / TBD) 8-1
Widening, 3-length winner of the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx in the local prep has found his best form of late. Second-best prior to that in the Curlin at Saratoga behind PA Derby return rival Scotland. Gun Runner colt tried the top of the division to no avail earlier this year in the Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes. Florida-based trainer Sano was fourth in last year’s PA Derby with Simplification.

#12-Reincarnate (Bob Baffert / Juan Hernandez) 3-1
Wire-to-wire winner of this year’s Sham at Santa Anita and most recently the Los Alamitos Derby. The only Kentucky Derby alumnus in this year’s PA Derby field, he pressed and faded in Louisville to run 13th. The July 8 Los Al Derby is his only effort since. Baffert’s PA Derby-record 4 wins include Bayern (2014), West Coast (2017), McKinzie (2018) and Taiba (2022). Difficult post draw with so much other early speed drawn to his inside will increase the challenge for the morning-line favorite.