From a Parx Racing release
After last year’s tremendous success hosting its two biggest races on the same day, Parx Racing in Bensalem will again put its two marquee races together on the same program. Saturday Parx will host the $1 million G2 Pennsylvania Derby and the $1 million G1 Cotillion Stakes and for the second straight year it will be the only track in America, with the exception of Breeders Cup weekend, to host two $1 million races on the same day. The two races will feature some of the best in the three year-old colt and filly divisions and a number of Hall of Famers will come to town to compete.
For local racing fans, the 2013 G2 Pennsylvania Derby will be a case of déjà vu all over again. Last year’s edition was a rematch of the historic dead heat in the G1 Travers Stakes between Alpha and Golden Ticket and this year again will feature a Travers rematch. Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge nosed out Southern Equine Stable’s Moreno August 24th at Saratoga and the two will again square off on Saturday. Will Take Charge has been a major player for legendary Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas all season. After winning the G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March, the big Unbridled’s Song colt raced in all three Triple Crown races. In the Derby, he was making a huge run on the final turn before being stopped in traffic and then turned in disappointing efforts in both the Preakness and the Belmont. After a freshening and the removal of blinkers, he returned to the races with a fast closing second to Belmont Stakes winner Palice Malice in the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga and then rallied for a dramatic victory in the Travers, getting up by a nose in the final strides. Lukas, of course, is one of the sports all-time greats. The 78 year-old former basketball coach has compiled a mind boggling resume. A record 14 Triple Crown wins (6 – Preakness, 4 – Kentucky Derby, 4 – Belmont), a record 19 Breeders Cup wins, not to mention four wins in the Kentucky Oaks. After being elected to racing’s Hall of Fame in 1999, in 2007, when he was elected to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, he became the first person in history to be elected to both.
Moreno, the horse that almost won the Travers, will try to turn the tables on Saturday. The gelded son of Ghostzapper has had an interesting career so far to say the least. He lost the three races he ran during his two year-old season and then proceeded to lose the first six starts of his three year-old campaign. However, after moving east from California after an early May defeat, he’s been a new horse. He won his east coast debut by romping in a special weight at Belmont on June 8th and then came back a month later to win the G2 Dwyer by seven lengths. An erratic stretch run in the G2 Jim Dandy left him third behind Palice Malice and Will Take Charge and sent him to the Travers as a 31-1 long shot. Jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Eric Guillot almost pulled it off. Leading from the outset, he loomed a winner coming to the wire, only to see Will Take Charge’s late surge nail him on the money. We’ll see if the shorter distance in Saturday’s Derby provides the measure of revenge he’s been seeking since that heartbreak at Saratoga.
Juddmonte Farm’s Close Hatches and Steve Beneto’s Sweet Lulu, two Grade 1 winning fillies will square off in the Cotillion. The matchup features two Hall of Fame trainers, Bill Mott and Jerry Hollendorfer. Mott’s Close Hatches has not raced since her seven and a quarter length victory in the G1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park June 22nd. The daughter of First Defence did not race as a two year-old and immediately caught the division’s attention with a seven length win in her special weight debut at Gulfstream January 26th. She made it three in a row when she won the G2 Gazelle at Aqueduct in early April before suffering her first defeat in the G1 Kentucky Oaks. After running second to Midnight Lucky in the G1 Acorn May 27th at Belmont, she rebounded with her brilliant performance in the Mother Goose. Hollendorfer’s Sweet Lulu has yet to taste defeat in four career starts. Also unraced as a two year-old, the Mr. Greeley filly didn’t make her first start until a victory at Betfair Hollywood on May 30th. She then went on to win consecutive allowance races at Hollywood and Del Mar before coming east for her first stakes appearance in the G1 Test at Saratoga on August 24th. With great determination she out finished Wildcat Lily and My Happy Face to win a three horse photo by a head. The one mile and one-sixteenth Cotillion will be the longest test so far of her five race career.
A terrific undercard is topped by the $300,000 G3 Gallant Bob Stakes, a six furlong sprint that has drawn a full field of fourteen three year-olds. The 5-2 morning line favorite is New Farm’s Rainbow Heir. Trained by Ben Perkins, Jr. the Wildcat Heir colt was an impressive five length winner of the G3 Jersey Shore at Monmouth in early July. He’ll break from post eleven with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard. The second choice, Up Hill Stable’s Clearly Now had a great spring highlighted by a win in the G3 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2nd. He’s drawn the twelve hole and trainer Brian Lynch has named Luis Saez to ride.
Saturday will feature lots of family related activities in the beautiful Picnic Grove. While there will be a plethora of food and beverage specials for the adults, kids can also expect to have a great day. Free pony rides, face painting, and “moon bounces” to play on will be provided. The always popular PA Derby/Cotillion hats will be given out to the first 5,000 fans that come through the doors. The band “Axis” will provide live music in the Picnic Grove during the afternoon and souvenir merchandise will be on sale as well.
From 4:30 to 6:00PM, the three major stakes will be televised live by Comcast SportsNet. Laffit Pincay III and Dick Jerardi will anchor the coverage while Mike Battaglia and Maggie Wolfendale will provide updates and interviews with the participants. NBC 10’s Sheena Parveen will be on hand as well with special features throughout the day. Track announcer Keith Jones will call the action from his booth six stories above.