By Gene Kershner
Racing turns its sights to the east coast this weekend where Philadelphia will host the weekend's biggest action. Parx Racing features three big graded stakes races highlighted by the Grade 1 Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies and anchored by the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-old colts. The day will feature $3 million in purse money over the 12-race card. The Pennsylvania Derby will serve as the stage for the rematch of the 1-2 photo finishers in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga as Will Take Charge and Moreno will face off in the $1 million race.
Close Hatches (5-2) is the morning line favorite for the $1 million Cotillion, a race many thought Princess of Sylmar would be running in due to her Pennsylvania breeding roots. The Princess' connections decided to pass in favor of the Beldame on Super Saturday at Belmont Park and a date with Royal Delta. The race also has attracted Test champion Sweet Lulu, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who will stretch out to 8 1/2-furlongs for the first time.
The late Pick-3 is an all graded stakes Pick-3 kicking off with the Grade 3 Gallant Bob Stakes, a 6-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. Let's see if we can string three races together for you on Philly's biggest race day.
Grade 3 Gallant Bob
We're going four deep here in the Gallant Bob, which drew 14 horses and turned several away. It should be a great betting race that has plenty of speed in it. We'll mix it up with some speed horses and stalkers as Parx usually has a super fast track on PA Derby day. Our top choice is 11-Rainbow Heir (3-1) will try and rebound from a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Amsterdam after two big performances at Monmouth Park. He's working well and the shorter distance should help the son of Wildcat Heir who will be on the engine at the start.
We'll stay outside and include 12-Clearly Now (4-1) who could pick up the pieces if the race falls apart. I like the cutback in distance here and Luiz Saez has had a good summer riding at Saratoga. Another horse who should be near the lead and has good middle speed stalking the pace is 2-Distintiv Passion (8-1) who returns to dirt after winning two turf sprints at Del Mar. Trainer Jeff Bonde ships him in with Edwin Maldonado in the irons on the With Distinction colt.
It wouldn't be right if I didn't include my favorite sprinter, the minute I exclude him he'll win going away, so here we go again with 8-Majestic Hussar (20-1). If the track is off, definitely include him, but I'm taking one more shot with him here. The Majestic Warrior colt did not have the best of trips in the King's Bishop and 6-furlongs appears to be his preferred distance.
Grade 1 Cotillion
When 6-My Happy Face (9-2) was swung 7-wide in the Test and came charging down the lane to lose by a neck, it was one of those races to make a note of and remember the next time she runs again. Well here she is stretching back out to 1 1/16-miles and should provide a challenge to the favorite, 9-Close Hatches, who is a formidable foe in this race. Trainer Chad Brown is winning 25 percent of the time when he ships in. I'm also going to play against 7-Sweet Lulu on the stretch out and hope that 5-Seaneen Girl ran her top last out. So we'll go two deep in the Cotillion with My Happy Face and Close Hatches.
Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby
The two top horses are hard not to include, Travers winner 7-Will Take Charge (2-1) strictly based on class and the runner-up 3-Moreno (5-2) who could easily run away with the 1 1/8-mile race on a speed favoring track. To try and catch lightning in a bottle we'll add two more horses (actually three for the price of two) by including the 1-McLaughlin entry and the 2-Speak Logistics who has a trip over the track, albeit over an off track and comes in third off the layoff. The McLaughlin coupled duo of 1-Transparent and 1A-Romansh, both took money in the Travers, but both carry key angles that could put them in the winner's circle. Transparent is running on lasix for the first time and Romansh will be running third off the layoff on the form cycle, both solid handicapping angles to get behind.
Post Time Outlook: The Pick-3 wager is 2,8,11,12 with 6,9 with 1,2,3,7 which will cost $32 for a buck and $16 for 50 cents.