Parx Racing has put together a great card on Saturday, Sept. 23, highlighted by two Grade I races — the Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies and the Pennsylvania Derby for sophomores of any sex — offering purses of $1 million apiece.
The Cotillion, which has produced two Breeders’ Cup Distaff champions since 2004 (Untapable three years ago and Ashado in ’04), drew four-time Grade I champion Abel Tasman, Gulfstream Oaks (G1) winner Salty, Delaware Oaks (G3) victress It Tiz Well and Black Eyed Susan (G2) winner Actress.
The Pennsylvania Derby, which achieved Grade I status just this year, produced controversial Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) champion Bayern in 2014.
Three other stakes races are also on tap at Parx on Saturday—the Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes and the ungraded Alphabet Soup Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby Championship Stakes.
Below is a horse-by-horse look at the latter.
1-DISCREET LOVER (10/1)
I find this guy incredibly interesting. Yeah, I know, his last win came on April 29 in an optional claiming affair and he’s been trounced in each of his last two starts, but there’s a reason the colt’s trainer, Uriah St Lewis, went winless for two years (2011-2012) and has a 2.7-percent win rate this year — he tends to put his charges in tough spots.
In those recent blowout losses, Discreet Lover faced Gun Runner, who may be the best horse in training right now. In fact, in 2016-17, the son of Repent has averaged 44-1 odds in his 23 trips to post. Is it any wonder he’s only won twice during that period (both times when favored)?
Discreet Lover should be a much more reasonable price today and he appears to be in top condition. Despite finishing last, beaten by 14 ½ lengths, in his most recent start, he recorded a 98 Brisnet Speed Figure, which is just a tick below Saturday’s par of 99.
And he followed that up with a four-furlong breeze timed in :47-4/5. I think he has a great shot to hit the board.
Fair Odds: 8-1
2-DONEGAL MOON (4/1)
Lost by a nose to Grade II winner Destin in his most recent outing and won his only race at Parx by 13 lengths. Todd Pletcher trainee is sharp right now and should give a good account of himself on Saturday. Price is the big question mark.
Fair Odds: 4-1
Finished third behind rival Page McKenney in the Roanoke Stakes, despite carving out slow early fractions (+2 early speed ration) at Parx on Sept. 2. I don’t think he gets the same trip on Saturday and he’ll need a career-best effort to win.
Fair Odds: 20-1
4-MATT KING COAL (3/1)
He’s won five of 12 lifetime races and was a close second behind Imperative in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic (G2) on April 22. Even though all of his wins have come in wire-to-wire or near-wire-to-wire style, I don’t think he has to be on the lead early.
That said, I don’t see him passing horses late, so I do think he’ll need to be in front turning for home. His speed ratings, pace figures, company lines and connections clearly make him the horse to beat, but I wouldn’t take a super-short price.
Fair Odds: 5-2
5-IKE WALKER (12/1)
Won a $32,000 claiming event at Del Mar last out and will need to improve to be competitive here.
Fair Odds: 15-1
6-MR. JORDAN (4/1)
After a great end to last year — his only two wins came in the last two starts of his 2016 campaign — Mr. Jordan has hit the skids in 2017.
Well, not entirely. He did win at Parx while recording a 99 BSF in a seven-furlong allowance affair on July 18 and could be rounding into form just in time for another end-of-the-year flourish. He certainly has the ability and he was a close third in this event last year. However, I’d insist on a better price than his morning line odds foretell.
Fair Odds: 10-1
7-SEA RAVEN (20/1)
His effort two-back was pretty good, but what happened in the Birdstone? Granted 1 ¾ miles does not look like the son of Mineshaft’s preferred distance, but the fact is he didn’t run a lick in that race. His last workout didn’t inspire either. He’d be a surprise.
Fair Odds: 35-1
8-PAGE MCKENNEY (6/1)
Like DJ Khaled, all this horse does is win. The 7-year-old gelding has posed for pictures in 19 of his 50 career races, including five out of six at Parx. He doesn’t show up in graded stakes very often, but even in those events, he typically performs well. In fact, he’s finished in the money (third or better) in all five of his graded tries, including a win in the General George Stakes (G3) at Laurel last year.
The Mary Eppler trainee possesses the best late speed rations (LSRs) in the field and he should get a great, stalking trip.
Fair Odds: 3-1
9-JUST CALL KENNY (9/2)
Captured the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park in stylish fashion and has finished in the money in each of his last three starts — all against Grade III foes.
Unfortunately he beat a grand total of 11 rivals in those races and his previous resume was spotty at best. He can definitely win on Saturday, but I’d want at least 6-1 odds on the proposition.
Fair Odds: 6-1
My Bet(s): Exacta 4,8 with 1,2,4,8,9.