McKinzie installed as slight Pennsylvania Derby favorite
Bravazo (#8) didn’t miss by much in the Preakness and will try it again in the Pennsylvania Derby. Photo by Dottie Miller.
From a Parx Racing release
While this year’s Triple Crown winner Justify enjoys early retirement after his perfect streak of six career victories, he left behind a group of talented sophomores who will regroup to form a deep and contentious field in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx at 1 1/8 miles on the main track
Leading the field of 10 in the Derby is Justify’s stablemate McKinzie, making his East Coast debut and first start since March 10 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The multiple graded stakes-winning Kentucky-bred by Street Sense owns three victories from four starts and has the distinction of both winning and losing via disqualification in his short career after he was moved up from second to first to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity on March 10 at Los Alamitos.
The colt returned to win the Grade 3 Sham Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita before being disqualified to second for bumping after winning the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes by a head. McKinzie was shelved with a leg injury following the San Felipe, and has been working well at Del Mar for his return. A victory would give Baffert back-to-back wins and his third overall in the PA Derby after saddling West Coast to a 7 1/4 length victory last year.
McKinzie will break from post 8 as the 5-2 favorite at 5-2 and be ridden by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith
One foe who could have a lot to say in the outcome is Belmont Stakes third place finisher Hofburg who will ship in from Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The late-running son of Tapit made a single start at two before breaking his maiden in early March of this year at Gulfstream Park. He then followed up with a strong kick for second behind three-length winner Audible in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park. Mott decided to skip the Preakness after a rough trip landed the colt a seventh place finish in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs, and instead waited for the Belmont, where he placed third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Justify’s final career victory for the Crown.
The Juddmonte Farms colt returned to Saratoga where he debuted last year, and closed from last to first among four others to win the Curlin Stakes by five lengths on July 27. A victory would give Mott his third Pennsylvania Derby; he saddled 1998 Pennsylvania Derby winner Rock and Roll and 2011 winner To Honor and Serve.
Hofburg draws post 2 and Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons and is installed at 3-1.
Calumet Farm’s Bravazo ships to Parx off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on August 25, which followed his runner-up effort behind Good Magic in the Grade 1 Haskell on July 29 at Monmouth Park. The son of Awesome Again is the lone 3-year-old to continue on to the second half of the season after completing all three legs of the Triple Crown behind Justify’s sweep finishing 6-2-6 respectively. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won the 2013 Pennsylvania Derby with Will Take Charge, has remained aggressive with his colt, who will make his ninth start this year in search of his second victory. Bravazo won the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 17 at Fair Grounds Race Course.
Luis Saez will be aboard Bravazo and leave from the outside post 10 at odds of 6-1.
Axelrod is another who make a return east. He will make his second start at Parx after closing amid a wide journey to score by four lengths in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes on August 25. The Florida-bred by Warrior’s Reward colt will try for his third straight victory, his earlier triumph coming in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby on July 14 at Indiana Grand Race Course. The Michael McCarthy trainee, just a $25,000 auction purchase as a yearling, has earned over $540,000.
Axelrod will run from post 6 and be joined by Joe Bravo at 5-1.
Every other runner in the field is 10-1 or higher. The Pennsylvania Derby will go as race 11 on the 13-race program. Five of the races are stakes, including the Grade 1 Cotillion, for three-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3 Gallant Bob, a six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds. Post time for the card is 12:25, with the Pennsylvania Derby slated for 5:45.
PENNSYLVANIA DERBY FIELD
- First Mondays (MD) (15/1) — jockey Frankie Pennington, trainer John Servis
- Hofburg (KY) (3/1) — Irad Ortiz, Jr./Bill Mott
- Instilled Regard (KY) (15/1) — Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown
- King Zachary (KY) (20/1) — Corey Lanerie/Dale Romans
- Core Beliefs (KY) (10/1) — Joe Talamo/Peter Eurton
- Axelrod (FL) (5/1) — Joe Bravo/Michael McCarthy
- Mr Freeze (KY) (12/1) — Robby Albarado/Dale Romans
- McKinzie (KY) (5/2) — Mike Smith/Bob Baffert
- Trigger Warning (KY) (20/1) — Irwin Rosendo/Mike Rone
- Bravazo (KY) (6/1) — Luis Saez/D. Wayne Lukas