Plenty of intrigue on PA Derby day card

Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby is perhaps lighter on star power than it has been in recent years. But it’s distaff companion, the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion, quite ably picks up the slack. And a perhaps surprising entrant in the Parx Dirt Mile adds intrigue to a 14-race program stuffed with stakes.

The Cotillion, for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the main track, has drawn a field of nine runners. Six of the nine are already graded stakes winners, among them the winners of Kentucky’s two big spring Grade 1 races for the division, the Ashland and the Kentucky Oaks.

Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous is a virtual lock to go off the favorite. The Brendan Walsh trainee, owned and bred by Godolphin, has constructed an admirable ledger of seven wins from nine starts in her career. That record includes three consecutive Grade 1 wins entering this contest; following the Oaks, she added wins in the Acorn and the Test, and she has three wins at the trip.

Tyler Gaffalione will ride.

She’ll face Ashland winner Defining Purpose in this contest. The Kenny McPeek trainee was 20-1 when she won the Ashland in April, but she could do no better than seventh in the Kentucky Oaks. Since, she won the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and then finished third in the Grade 1 Alabama. Owned by Katsumi Yoshida, she will have Brian Hernandez up.

The field also includes locally-based Foggy Night. The Butch Reid trainee won the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks three back and the local Cotillion prep, the Cathryn Sophia, last out. Overall, she has never been worse than second in six local outings. Florent Geroux will ride.

In between her two recent wins, Foggy Night was a well-beaten second in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks behind the Chad Brown-trained Occult, who also is here. Occult finished third behind Pretty Mischievous two back in the Acorn and will have Irad Ortiz, Jr. up.

Other notables include Grade 2 winner Hoosier Philly and Grade 3 winner Ceiling Crusher.

One race after, the Pennsylvania Derby has a field of 11, and Saudi Crown will likely go favored. Trained by Brad Cox for FMQ Stables, Saudi Crown has not won a stake in his four-race career but suffered back-to-back nose defeats in the Grade 3 Dwyer and Grade 2 Jim Dandy, the latter coming to Forte. Geroux has the mount for the fourth time in the horse’s five outings.

Saudi Crown’s top rivals include Grade 3 winners Il Miracolo and Reincarnate. The former won the local prep, the Grade 3 Smarty Jones, in a dominant performance. The latter, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Grade 3 Sham back in January and arrives off a win in the Los Alamitos Derby.

Foggy Night
Foggy Night upset the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks. Photo by Allison Janezic.

In the day’s other graded stakes:

  • Ridin With Biden will try to defend his G3 Greenwood Cup title but may have his hooves full with the formful Next, a winner of four of five including, two back, the Grade 2 Brooklyn. A $62,500 claim in April 2022, Next has won four stakes, two graded, since.
  • A pair of speedy fillies take top billing when they take on the boys in the Grade 3 Turf Monster, a five-furlong dash. Roses for Debra is four-for-four since switching to the turf and won two Saratoga stakes, including the G3 Caress, for trainer Christophe Clement. Meanwhile, the Kate DeMasi-trained All That Magic is likewise 4-for-4 since moving onto the lawn and last out narrowly won the Incredible Revenge at Monmouth.
  • In the G3 Gallant Bob, Grade 3 winner Ryvit will look to recapture the form that saw him fashion a five-race win streak earlier this year. He arrives with a couple of off-color efforts in his last two.
  • Perhaps the day’s biggest surprise is the presence of multiple Grade 1 winner and $2 million earner Gunite in the ungraded Parx Dirt Mile. The Steve Asmussen trainee will certainly be favored, though it is a fairly salty group that includes last-out Grade 3 winner Whelen Springs for trainer Lindsay Schultz.

First post for the 14-race program is 11:35 a.m.