Handicapping Parx’s Pennsylvania Derby preview day

On the heels of Monday’s Pennsylvania Day at the Races, Parx Racing follows up with another big day with a number of stakes races. That roster of stakes includes the $200,000 Cathryn Sophia Stakes, the local prep for the Grade 1 Cotillion, and the Grade 3 Smarty Jones, which serves as a prep for the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby.

Those two races are among four stakes on the 12-race program. I tried to find a little value, including two long shots in The Smarty Jones. Here are my thoughts for your entertainment pleasure, so go ahead and recreate the famous scene in the movie “Let it Ride” and get ready to fade my picks.

No opinion in RACES 1 or 2.


The #1 Mask Patrol ran gamely in defeat against Gordian Knot last time. That horse is the ML favorite in a $75K stake later in the card. Early in his career Mask Patrol was competing against the likes of Cyberknife and Epicenter, both Grade 1 winners, so he was well meant. I think the light bulb went off in the last race and he can get the win here.

No opinion in RACE 4.

RACE 5: Starter Alw 8000

Can’t explain the huge Beyer jump in the last two races, after a seven-month break, for #6 Masrour (4-1 morning line) but I think you will still get value backing him. The presence of the #7 Little Demon (Ness/Silvera), who has comparable figures recently and has run against better, should ensure Mansrour goes off at higher odds than last race even though he won by five lengths. I’ll play the 6 just for the value.

RACE 6: Alw 70000 NC

The #4 Riden With Biden loves the surface but it is a valid question as what might have caused him to be eased in January and wonder if he will ever be the same horse again. That question, his recent loss at Delaware, and the presence of the #2 Calibrate will draw money away, so he might go off a tick or two higher and provide a little value for those, like me, who think he still has life in him. His performance first time back off the layoff was a good one. In addition, the 1 ¼-mile distance races tend to favor unchallenged early speed as connections question their horses’ ability to get the distance. Riden With Biden (5-2) might be able to dictate the pace as he did in the mile and a half Greenwood Cup last year.



#7 Gordian Knot (5-2) scratched out of Monday’s Banjo Picker Sprint to await this spot. He will likely be the chalk if he runs. He offers little value so probably worthy of a small action bet only.

No opinion in RACE 8.


Highly competitive race and therefore using it to start a double. We’re expecting #7 Fore Harp to scratch after he ran a disappointing fourth in the Marshall Jenney versus state-breds Monday. The three most consistent of the rest at the distance and stakes competitive proven are the #5 Yes I Am Free, #9 Alogon. and #11 Boat’s a Rockin.

RACE 10: THE CATHRYN SOPHIA (Cotillion Prep)

The #6 Southlawn (3-1) lost to the horse who was favored in the Alabama and the horse who won the Test in the last two races. Got a troubled trip in both of these races and showed little. This is a big class drop, and if she can return to her Fairgrounds form will be a logical favorite. Prepping for The Cotillion so may not be fully cranked but won’t have to be to win here, and it is not like she had to exert any energy in the last two races. Geroux comes in for the ride. Some mixed signals but enough positive ones for me to make the pick, especially since I don’t think the second ML choice Foggy Night is all that. In an effort to get some value will also bet in the double with two long shots in The Smarty Jones.


We’re taking a stab with two long shot horses in this prep for the PA Derby. Both the #6 Movisitor (8-1) and #7 Daydreaming Boy (8-1) do not fit on class. In addition, it appears that Movisitor was not even being considered as a dirt runner until recently. That said, both horses show an affinity to the Parx surface and are in very sharp form. To their connections, this race is the plum and not just a prep. Even if I am not alive in my double, I will still take a swing here with win bets as both horses should be double-digit odds. The 2, 3 and 5 are the logical contenders with big name trainers (Cox, Brown, Mott). They are obviously pointing toward the PA Derby, along with Bob Baffert’s Reincarnate, who Bob announced is skipping the Travers to run in the big race here on September 23.

RACE 12: Clm 25,000 N2L Turf

If the turf is firm the pick is #9 Istria (3-1). Competitive against Neecie Marie, who won the Mrs. Penny Stakes Monday here. Trainer Lynch has good record at Parx. The only entrant with an open MSW win showing in the listed PP’s. Many of these runners are still looking for their secnd win after running 10 or more times. I believe this one is still improving, now running in her eighth contest but only the fourth on the turf.