By Richard Rosenblatt
It’s been a busy news week in horse racing leading up to the weekend schedule, which features the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx on Saturday – a race that was supposed to include Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit.
A day after the post-position draw for the Pennsylvania Derby, one of five graded stakes races on the best card of the year at the track outside Philadelphia, trainer Bob Baffert pulled Medina Spirit out of the race, claiming a poor outside post. He’s now planning to run his colt in the Awesome Again (G1) at his home track at Santa Anita.
Two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl was retired after it was discovered the 6-year-old mare had a “non-displaced fracture of the sesamoid” in the right front leg. Monomoy Girl, trained by Brad Cox, won 14 of 17 races (she was second three times) and earned more than $4.7 million. A champion and future Hall of Famer, for sure.
Also continuing is the Breeders’ Cup investigation into whether it’ll permit Baffert to enter horses in the two-day, 14-race, $31 million Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on Nov. 5-6. At issue are multiple medication violations, including one still awaiting a final ruling on Medina’s Spirit’s post-Derby positive for a prohibited, race day medication.
And the saddest news was the sudden death of 3-year-old filly Santa Barbara, owned by Ballydole, and trained by Aidan O’Brien. The two-time Grade 1 winner died due to a pelvic injury.
“Santa Barbara fractured her pelvis and unfortunately the fracture displaced overnight. It’s obviously a real shame for everyone. She was a very talented filly,’’ O’Brien told The Racing Post.”
Most racing fans will be paying close attention to Parx on Saturday, when Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon go at it in the 1 1/16-mile Pennsylvania Derby – topping a field of nine 3-year-olds.
The other $1 million race on the card is the Cotillion (G1) for 3-year-olf fillies featuring a trio of topnotch fillies in Army Wife, Clairiere, and Maracuja.
No Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge series races are on the weekend schedule but wait until next week with the opening of the Keeneland and Santa Anita fall meets.
The races at Parx will be televised by TVG, while America’s Day at the Races on FOX Sports will broadcast live Saturday from Belmont Park on FS2 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET; on Sunday, it’s 12:30-6 p.m. on FS2.
It’s late September, and this is one of the final get-togethers for 3-year-olds only, with Hot Rod Charlie the likely favorite over Midnight Bourbon.
As mentioned earlier, no Medina Spirit in this one.
Hot Rod Charlie ran third in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Preakness (G1) and then finished first in the Haskell (G1) but was disqualified for impeding and nearly knocking over Midnight Bourbon.
Midnight Bourbon rebounded from the incident and ran a game second to Essential Quality in the Travers (G1).
Other familiar names from the Triple Crown trail include Bourbonic and Keepmeinmind,
Clairiere, trained by Steve Asmussen, might just be ready to step up and claim that elusive Grade 1 win. She’s been fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), third in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and second in the Alabama (G1) last out on Aug 21.
Among the top fillies in the field are Army Wife, third in the Alabama, and Maracuja, who pulled an upset in the CCAO then ran seventh in the Alabama.
Jackie’s Warrior, the 4-5 morning-line choice, tops a field of seven as he comes into the race off a victory over Life Is Good in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 28. The colt trained by Steve Asmussen, leaves from the outside post under Joel Rosario. This should be a final prep for the colt (with a record of seven wins in 10 starts) before the BC Sprint (G1) on Nov. 6
Last-time out winners Real Talk, Pickin’ Time, and Beren are also in the field.
Caravel, trained by Graham Motion, comes in as the 9-5 favorite in a field of 12. The 4-year-old gray filly had won three in a row before stepping into Grade 1 company and finishing third in the Highlander at Woodbine on Aug. 22 in her last out.
The favorite drew post 8 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Moretti is a solid 2-1 favorite in a field of nine. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 5-year-old horse drew post 3 and will be ridden by Luis Saez.
Moretti is 0-for-4 this year. In his last start, he was seventh in the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 28.
Chad Brown has won four of the last five editions of this race and goes for another with favorites Pocket Square (3-5) and Miss Teheran (9-5) in a small field.
Life Is Good, formerly trained by Bob Baffert and now by Todd Pletcher, is the 1-9 favorite as he uses this race as a prep for the BC Dirt Mile (G1) on Nov. 6.
Bella Sofia (4-5), winner of the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and 3-of-4 overall, takes over older fillies and mares in a field of five. Lake Avenue, second in her last three starts, is the 7-5 second choice.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.