West Coast installed as Pennsylvania Derby favorite

by | Sep 19, 2017 | Breaking, PA Racing, Pennsylvania, Racing

Irish War Cry

Irish War Cry was much the best in winning the Wood Memorial earlier this year at Aqueduct. Photo by Chelsea Durand/NYRA.

From a Parx Racing release

With the three year-old championship still very much up for grabs, Gary and May West’s West Coast, trained by Bob Baffert, will try to solidify his case when he meets a field of nine rivals in Saturday’s running of the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby.

Upgraded to a Grade 1 race last fall by the American Graded Stakes Committee, the 37th renewal of Parx Racing’s biggest race will be its first as a Grade 1. The nine furlong test is scheduled for 5:45PM local time. Baffert will also send out the favorite, Abel Tasman in the $1 million Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes. The Quality Road filly will be looking for the fifth Grade 1 win of her career. Cotillion post time is 4:55PM. First post on Saturday is 12:25PM.

While the three classic winners, Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit have all had their chances to stake their claims to the three year-old championship, none has been able to do so. With the door wide open, enter West Coast, a colt earlier in the year that had been among Bob Baffert’s “B” team. When his best sophomore, Mastery, got hurt, it was time for others to step forward and West Coast has done so in a big way.

The Flatter colt began his late season surge with a convincing 3 3/4-length victory in the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes June 10th at Belmont Park. He then captured his first graded win with a big rally to win the G3 Los Alamitos Derby July 15th and then went wire to wire to win the G1 Travers in his last start August 26th at Saratoga. Were he to capture a second Grade 1 prize here this weekend, his name could well land itself at the top of the class. He’ll open as a solid 8-5 morning line favorite with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith set to ride.

But other runners with talent will be looking to make their own cases.

After getting beaten by West Coast in the Travers, Reddam Racing’s Irap (3-1) will look to turn the tables on Saturday. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the Tiznow colt burst onto the scene with an improbable win in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Entering the race as a maiden and dismissed as a 31-1 long shot, he took the lead turning for home and held off two well regarded colts, Practical Joke and McCraken, to win for the first time.

His strong development has continued. Since the Blue Grass win, he’s also won the G3 Ohio Derby, beating Girvin by a whisker, and the G3 Indiana Derby where he romped home a full five lengths in front. His trip in the Travers was less than ideal. Four wide on both turns, he loomed a factor at the top of the stretch but couldn’t sustain his bid and came home a still respectable third. The cut back in distance and a better trip could suit him well.

Maryland-based, New Jersey-bred Irish War Cry (9-2) will also be looking to make amends after finishing a disappointing fourth in the Grade 1 Haskell last time out. Owned by Isabelle deTomaso and trained by Graham Motion, the Curlin colt has shown on his best day that he’s a top-tier three year-old. He had dominating wins earlier in the year in the G2 Fountain of Youth and G2 Wood Memorial. He seems to run his best on the lead and with other speed entered, he may need to show a different dimension if he’s to win the first Grade 1 of his career.

The rest of the field includes Timeline (5-1) from the Chad Brown barn; Todd Pletcher’s Outplay (12-1); Watch Me Whip (20-1), trained by Dale Romans; Talk Logistics (20-1) for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr.; Game Over, from the Jorge Navarro barn (15-1); another Doug O’Neill trainee in the form of Term of Art (20-1); and Nick Zito’s Giuseppe the Great (20-1).