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They used to call it Keystone
Real Writing on Racing 💯
I was high school senior in Saratoga when one day my dad asked me if I wanted to take a ride down to Philly as he had a business meeting the next morning. I was a bit puzzled as to why he asked me to go before he slipped in, “the meeting shouldn’t take too long, we can go to Keystone as soon as it’s over.” The 17 year old me getting a free ‘get out of school for the day’ card AND a chance to visit an new racetrack on a weekday afternoon was like hitting the ‘pretty awesome day’ powerball. My dad’s meeting was in downtown Philadelphia and I managed to stumble into a newsstand while I was wandering around waiting for it to be over. Now armed with that day’s DRF, in the old newspaper style of course, I hustled back to the lobby of the large building to start scoping out the races at what was a mostly foreign track to me. Not too long after I had perused the past performances, my dad appeared and off to Bensalem we headed. The years have dulled what I remember about that days card but I do recall cashing a bet on a Jonathon Sheppard runner in the featured allowance race that had a purse of $12000. Though Chris Antley and Julie Krone were riding that day, the ageless Tony Black was the top dog at the time. Seemed like there was a decent enough crowd and we spent a lot of time outside by the paddock taking in the sights and sounds of yet another track. I even bought a blue Keystone Park windbreaker at the gift shop, which served to give me immediate street cred in the local OTB’s and simulcast outlets when we got back home. The years claimed that jacket as they did the Keystone name which turned into Philadelphia Park for a couple decades before finally settling on Parx in 2010. It would have been impossible to believe back then that the mundane track with mostly cheap horses would someday host a pair of grade one, million dollar races…hell it almost seems preposterous now…but it’s true.
☔️ The forecast looks miserable for the greater Philadelphia metro area with rain expected to commence in the morning, lasting through the remainder of the day with temps in the 50’s almost assuredly going to produce sloppy conditions. The Turf Monster stakes seems destined to be the Mud Monster though of the 14 scheduled races only two were originally carded for the grass so the impact shouldn’t be substantial.
⛈️ The Saturday afternoon card at BAQ has already been cancelled and the two stakes, the Nobel Damsel (Gr III) and Ashley T. Cole have been rescheduled for Friday.
⏳ Do we really need 45 minutes between the Gallant Bob (Gr II) and the Cotillion (Gr I) or 50 minutes between that race and the Pennsylvania Derby (Gr I)??? Who thinks this is a good idea?
👎🏼 Enough with the allowance conditions in grade 1 races please! We used to have handicap races which were great and having different weights was justified because of the uniqueness of those events. Allowance conditions lead to stupidity like Magic Tap giving 2 pounds to Saudi Crown because he won an allowance race which should have zero bearing in the Pennsylvania Derby. While we are at it fix the allowance conditions that you have in allowance races! Trainers DO NOT ENTER horses like they used to, they PREFER more time between races so penalizing a recent winner by making them carry more weight makes no sense. Equal weights…period.
🇨🇦 The Little Brown Jug was a big hit on Thursday afternoon (the harness version of the Belmont Stakes but held at a county fairgrounds in central Ohio) but the best standardbred card of the week is Saturday night at Woodbine-Mohawk which is Mohawk Million night. Below are the PP’s for the two featured two year old stakes, the Metro for pacers and the Mohawk Million for trotters. Clever Cody and Tennessee Tom are my tepid selections.
🆘 War Like Goddess is scheduled to defend her title in next Saturdays Joe Hirsch (Gr I) at BAQ (read Dave Grening piece here) but the interesting part of this story is the mount isn’t yet determined (publicly) but if it isn’t Jose Lezcano…
🎙️ Matt Dinerman, formerly of the soon to be defunct Golden Gate Fields. was named the new announcer at Oaklawn Park on Friday which seems like a popular decision as Mary Rampellini spells out here.
🎤 Best of luck to fellow Substacker Mike Mutnansky from MutStack who is going to be helping out on the Parx in-house broadcast doing interviews and some handicapping!
Cotillion (Gr I) $1,000,000 3yo fillies 1 1/16 Dirt
Foggy Night - improving filly is in career form, taking the Catherine Sophia stakes at Parx over a ridiculously slow track last month for trainer Butch Reid. Perhaps it’s only interesting to me but this filly almost never has official works, she has only recorded one (Sept 16 - 3 in 37.2 at Parx) since May 24th though this will be her fifth race since then. Delaware Oaks (Gr III) winner is probably not fast enough to threaten the top contenders and her only off track race was her worst, the only time she has been worse than 2nd when beaten 16 when 6th in the Demoiselle (Gr II) last December.
Ceiling Crusher - Cal bred filly ships in off of facile score in the Torrey Pines (Gr III) at Del Mar in her latest. O’Neill trained daughter of Mr Big has terrorized state breds most of the year outside of a failed attempt to rate her in the Fleet Treat earlier this summer at Del Mar, so I’d expect her to be sent to the lead from the start by Maldonado, who took over after her only loss in six tries. How she will handle the off track is a mystery as California tracks generally cancel these days when wet weather strikes but her full sister Cashing Big Checks handled it fine in two starts. If the track is favoring speed I’d be wary of discounting her chances at potentially a decent price.
Pretty Mischievous - backdoor’ed a win in the tragedy marred Test (Gr I) in her last but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that she has been the division leader since upending the Kentucky Oaks (Gr I) when Brendan Walsh added blinkers to her equipment. You could make a pretty strong case that a win here that about wraps up a division title as her as it would be her 4th consecutive grade 1 win to go along with the Rachael Alexandra (Gr II). She figures to get a nice trip in here, especially if Hoosier Philly/Majestic Creed apply some pace pressure to Ceiling Crusher and the big Into Mischief filly has handled a sloppy track in her only go over it.
Hoosier Philly - incredibly poor trip last out at Charlestown in the CT Oaks (Gr III) May have triggered the rider change to Johnny V here. The race before in the Monomoy Girl, she was able to set slow fractions over a speed favoring Ellis Park surface when defeating Wet Paint. This race doesn’t set up particularly well for her though as despite proclamations to the contrary, she hasn’t progressed enough as a 3 year old to beat good stakes fillies without the lead. She did cruise to win the Golden Rod in her only try on a sloppy surface last fall but the early pace dynamics here seem to put her at a disadvantage that I don’t believe she can overcome without a couple of key scratches.
Occult - dominated Monmouth Oaks and the form for that race was sorta flattered when the runner up, Foggy Night subsequently took the Catherine Sophia in her next start. Has handled wet track before which isn’t surprising considering she is an Into Mischief, has a running style that may be flattered by a strong early pace, adds Irad and the 6-1 morning line price looks a bit too generous as she will likely be closer to half that price.
Just Katherine - Justify filly improved quite a bit this summer since she shipped north to New York from Gulfstream Park. She finished 3rd in a super tough, key race allowance on June 16 at Belmont before running 2nd to Randomized in the Wilton Stakes at Saratoga, one race before that rival took down the Alabama (Gr I) by four lengths. Her latest saw her edging away late in another solid allowance race, this time at Saratoga going 9 furlongs, so she will be cutting back slightly for this and an on the board finish would be no surprise.
Defining Purpose - another filly cutting back in distance, she chased Randomized around the track in the Alabama before weakening late, unable to hold off Wet Paint for the runner up spot, though still a clear 3rd. The shorter trip in the Cotillion should be better for her as she has two graded stakes wins at the distance bookending a mediocre effort in the Kentucky Oaks (Gr I) going 9 furlongs. Not sure if Hernandez will look to take back a bit with other speed signed on but it seems like quite a few fillies may be trying to get to the same stalking position.
Imonra - feels like she is not quite the caliber of these as her two stakes efforts would be labeled fair.
Majestic Creed - she does a lot of dancing as this will be start number 10 this season, career start number 15. Her main contribution to this race may be as an early pace factor, pressing from the outside post for local connection’s.
Pennsylvania Derby (Gr I) $1,000,000 3yo 1 1/8 Dirt
Modern Era - we love you Uriah….but c’mon…
Dreamlike - crushed a representative group of maidens going 9 furlongs before not doing much running after a stumbling start in a Saratoga allowance race last month, won by Magic Tap. Sheds blinkers for this but does retain Irad who you’d assume could have ridden a couple of others in here. Is by Gun Runner who is a superior off track sire, he’d get a circle X as a muddy track influence in a different time (if you know what I’m referring to, you are old too) but I’m skeptical about his chances here.
Saudi Crown - he’s fast, he has speed, can handle an off track. The son of Always Dreaming ran two huge races in his only two stakes appearances, despite narrow defeats in both, quite controversially in the Jim Dandy in his last. The race runs through him both literally and figuratively, he should be on the lead and it feels like he is sitting on a break through performance here against a decent group. If one of the others gets feisty, guns from the gate and they duel in insane fractions, well all bets are off then but he is the most likely winner and 7-2 is a pipe dream.
Magic Tap - takes the logical step up into stakes competition after a solid allowance win at Saratoga over older horses going this same 9 furlongs. Should handle an off track and May get a dream trip if some of the other speed horses don’t concede the early lead to Saudi Prince. The question is can he rate a bit more than he has had to and still finish up strong?
Scotland - a bit of the ‘wise guy’ horse in the Travers, was sent off at 7-1 after winning the Curlin, which is the Spa listed race prep that traditionally sends winners that bomb in the Travers. Another that has speed though the gelded son of Good Magic has show the ability to rate from off of the pace and pass horses, which might be the plan here.
Daydreaming Boy - local horse takes a shot here though he seems in tough. Has won three allowance races this season (a rarity these days) so there aren’t a whole lot of spots available and it’s his home track for a million bucks. Figure Haddock to sit inside, chase the pace around the far turn and try to pick up a check.
West Coast Cowboy - West Virginia Derby runner up is another hoping for a speed duel as on his own merits, doesn’t seem like he is quite good enough. Has handled wet tracks before.
Gilmore - the versatility of sire Twirling Candy is on display here as this colt has shown an ability to handle a variety of different scenarios, surfaces and distances. Eked out an off-the-turf allowance race at Saratoga last out and hasn’t shown he is fast enough or wants 9 furlongs but he does handle a wet track and picks up Johnny V as Irad chose to stick with Dreamlike.
Crupi - probably needs a speed duel in front of him to be much of a factor here but has improved and does handle wet tracks too. No jock is named which is odd unless there is a scratch anticipated so a jock change wouldn’t be needed (double jocks mount in a million dollar race could be costly) if one of the top guys becomes available.
Il Miracolo - wandered to the parking lot when winning the Smarty Jones (Gr III) last month after chasing Scotland in the Curlin before that. Is by noted mud loving sire Gun Runner though his only start on a sloppy track was poor. Another with no jockey named…I’m guessing regression here,
Reincarnate - was originally scheduled to compete in the Travers before Baffert called an audible and decided this would be the next target for the gray son of Good Magic. It was probably the right call abut we still have doubts that this guy is truly a top tier 3 year old and from a tough outside post, he may struggle to figure out a trip that works here.
Gallant Bob (Gr II) $400,000 3yo 6 furlongs dirt
This race doesn’t feature any of the current top rated three year old sprinters though it is a contentious race with quite a few solid contenders. Ryvit had been among the fastest three year old sprinters coming into the summer, bringing a 5 race win streak into Saratoga when he was sent off at 7-2 in the Amsterdam (Gr II). He got blown off the track that day, beaten 21 by a spectacular New York Thunder after chasing the pace futilely. Asmussen sent him to Charlestown to regroup in the Robert (no relation to Paris) Hilton stakes, where he was the 9-5 favorite but unable to get to the lead, floundered and didn’t finish up, winding up 5th behind Damon’s Mound. Gafflione will need to send him hard out of the gate as he simply isn’t nearly as effective off the lead against top class company as he is on it, but with Sir Lancelot in there and Damon’s Mound showing improved speed, he may be chasing again. If Stidham decides to scratch Sir Lancelot (worst race is in slop), the entire scenario changes and Ryvit now only needs to clear others who aren’t dedicated front runners. Damon’s Mound has paired 4’s on TG (4-4-4.75 last 3) which is good but still hasn’t broken through that ceiling which he set last summer as a 2yo. IMO the one to beat is the Pa bred breaking from post 11, Gordian Knot, who has shown the ability to handle open company, is nicely drawn outside the speed and has a very good pattern on TG where he essentially has never taken a step back on the dirt and is now running excellent figs (paired 2.75). His trainer Lupe Preciado can point to a target and hit as he did in this very same race last year with Scaramouche, and he named Micheal Sanchez, who is a terrible bettor but a pretty good jockey, to ride.
📽️ The best thing about the annual running of the Pennsylvania Derby is having an excuse to show the 1986 version where Broad Brush showed that he wasn’t just great but quirky too. Richard Small, Angel Cordero and Robert Meyerhoff trained rode and owned/bred the son of Ack Ack who not only had a racing record or 27-14-5-5 good for $2,656,793 but was also the leading sire in North America in 1994. We included a bonus video of one of the great races of the 80’s when Broad Brush ventured west to take on Ferdinand in the 1987 Santa Anita Handicap. You’re welcome!