Pennsylvania Derby (Gr. II) 11/8 Miles (Dirt)
Skip Trial, Summer Squall, Macho Uno, Harlan’s Holiday, and Morning Line. Do you know what these thoroughbreds all have in common? That’s right, they have all won the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby. This Saturday, Sept. 24, the sun will rise again over the former Philadelphia Park, and before it sets a new Parx Racing Pennsylvania Derby winner will be crowned. This venue is sure to be the hottest ticket in town. Of course with such a hot ticket there needs to be some ice to cool everything down and that’s just what the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner is trying to do. The competition will be strong and fierce. Two sons of Bernardini will be dueling it out to see who has more muscle, while a Canadian Prince will be looking to show his neighbors to the south just how good he can be.
The first contender worth mentioning needs no introduction at all. Most may know him as the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner or more formally known as Ruler on Ice. This big chestnut is currently the morning line favorite with odds of 5-2. Ruler on Ice has run nine times the past two years, winning three, placing twice and coming in third twice (9-3-2-2). The Roman Ruler gelding recently ran in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, finishing fourth behind Stay Thirsty, Rattlesnake Bridge and J W Blue. Ruler on Ice has a lot to prove this weekend if he wants to be known as one of the best three-year-olds in the country. He will also be trying to convince everyone his Belmont Stake victory was no fluke.
Arthur’s Tale is the next horse saddling up for this weekend’s Penn Derby. The Darley colt is the son of the famed Bernandini, who also sired To Honor and Serve. Thus far in 2011, Arthur’s Tale has run four times, finishing in the money twice with a first place finish in a claiming race at Aqueduct. The colt also finished second in the Wood Memorial behind Toby’s Corner. Career wise, the bay colt has run in eight races and has a standing record of 8-2-1-1. Arthur’s Tale's current morning line odds are 12-1.
The number three horse in this field is the Canadian chestnut Pender Harbour. The Philanthropist colt has been running north of the border his entire career but has been making a huge impact as of late. Pender Harbour won the second two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown by pulling out nose victories in the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders’ Stakes. All the Canadian Triple Crown races are run over different surfaces from the polytrack, to the dirt, and then the turf. This chestnut could be a favored dark horse with his victory over the dirt in the 1 3/16 mile Prince of Wales Stakes. Pender Harbor has run a total of eight races in his career finishing first four times and third once (8-4-0-1). The gelding’s current morning line odds stand at 12-1.
Our next colt slated for the number four spot is the Pennsylvania-bred Norman Asbjornson. This bay has not faired as well against tougher competition but Parx Racing is his home track so that could be a huge advantage for the horse. The son of Real Quiet recently won an allowance optional claiming race earlier this month. Prior to his latest victory Norman Asbjornson finished 11th in the Preakness Stakes back in May and ran fourth in the Wood Memorial back in April. The long layoff may have paid off for the colt so we will see what Norman Asbjornson will show up Saturday. To date, Norman Asbjornson has run nine times throughout his career finishing first three times and second once (9-3-1-0). Current morning line odds are 12-1 for the bay colt.
Rush Now is next on our list as he will be leaving from the fifth spot. The son of Tiznow recently placed second in the West Virgina Derby behind Prayer for Relief and finished a distant fourth in the Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park. The Rick Dutrow-trained colt will be trying to get back to the winner's circle for the first time since his victory in the Spend a Buck Stakes back in May of this year. To date, Rush Now has 11 career starts and has finished in the money seven of those races. His record stands at 11-4-2-1. Rush Now’s current odds are at 9-2.
Isn’t He Perfect looks to be the long-shot in this field as his morning line odds started at 20-1. The Pleasantly Perfect colt has not seen the winner’s circle since March of this year and has only managed to hit the board once in his last six starts. Thus far, Isn’t He Perfect has run a total of 16 races and has only finished in the money four times (16-2-1-1). You may remember this colt from the Preakness and Belmont Stakes earlier this year but the bay finished an unimpressive 9th and 12th in those races.
Next on our list is one of the more popular colts in this field: To Honor and Serve. The Bill Mott trainee will be taking off from the seven spot and will be looking to keep his winning ways afloat. The Bernardini bay recently won an allownace claiming race at Saratoga making his efforts look easy with an 8 ¼ length romp. Thus far, To Honor and Serve has started in eight races and has a current record of 8-4-1-2. To Honor and Serve will be looking to get back into his form that carried him to three straight victories in 2010 with wins in the Nashua Stakes and the Remsen Stakes at the Aqueduct. The colt has current morning line odds set at 3-1.
The eight horse in this nine horse field goes by the name of J W Blue. Also trained by Rick Dutrow, this colt has run seven times in 2011 and has finished first once, second twice, and third twice. J W Blue’s career record stands at 10-2-2-2. The Sky Mesa colt recently competed in the Travers Stakes and the Barbaro Stakes which he finished a respectable third and second. If J W Blue can pull off the victory Saturday it will be his first graded stakes win. Currently J W Blue’s odds stand at 8-1.
Last, but not least, is Rattlesnake Bridge. This grey colt will be slated for the nine hole and will also be looking for his first graded stakes victory. Rattlesnake Bridge was last seen in the Travers Stakes where he finished 1 ¼ lengths back of winner, Stay Thirsty. The Tapit colt has run six times thus far in his career and has only finished out of the money once. His record currently stands at 6-2-3-0. Rattlesnake Bridge will definitely have a target on his back as he got the better of J W Blue and Ruler on Ice last time out in the Travers. The grey's morning line odds are now set at 4-1.
Well there you have it: a Canadian star, two sons of the famed Bernardini and the Belmont Stakes winner will all take to the track this Saturday to see which thoroughbred will be crowned the Pennsylvania Derby winner. The race is scheduled to start at 5:45 PM and is the eleventh race out of a twelve race card.
Graphic by Candice Curtis
Story by Josh Chicorelli