Head to Head: Handicap the Pennsylvania Derby 2023 at Parx

Head to Head: Handicap the Pennsylvania Derby 2023 at Parx
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - edited

Parx Racing’s Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby drew a field of 11 3-year-olds who will travel 1 1/8 miles Saturday. The Pennsylvania Derby is one of the last graded races strictly for 3-year-olds, and this field is softer than some previous years, although there are some promising late bloomers in the field. None in this field has won beyond the Grade 3 level, but someone will exit with a top-tier win to his name.

Topping the field is Grade 3 winner and Grade 1-placed Reincarnate, who most recently won the Los Alamitos Derby. Brad Cox-trained Saudi Crown seeks his first graded win after losing his previous two graded starts by a nose each. They are joined by the up and coming Scotland and Magic Tap along with a large supporting cast.

Click here for Parx Racing entries and results.

Although this isn’t a win-and-you’re-in race, Bayern completed the Pennsylvania Derby-Breeders’ Cup Classic double in 2014 with a controversial run in the year-end championship.

Taiba, Hot Rod Charlie, West Coast and Will Take Charge each won the Pennsylvania Derby and then cracked the top three of the Breeders' Cup Classic. Morning Line won in 2010 at Parx and then placed in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

The Pennsylvania Derby is featured as the 13th of 14 races with a post time Saturday at 6:10 p.m. EDT on a card with 10 stakes. The National Weather Service said Friday there is a 100 percent chance of heavy rain.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of From Coast to Coast sift through a talented field looking for a winner.



1. Modern Era, 50-1

Modern Era faces career maiden status with eight starts under his girth. He’s hit the board twice. Why is he in here? Pass.


Like Laurie, I’m questioning why Modern Era is in this field. With 10 others running, it’s not like Parx was struggling to fill this race. According to Race Lens, trainer Uriah St. Lewis is just an 8 percent winner and 20 percent in the money in graded stakes in the last five years. Pass.


2. Dreamlike, 10-1

Draw a line through Dreamlike’s last start. He stumbled at the start and was never in contention. The late-blooming son of Gun Runner graduated in his fourth start over a good Saratoga main track, and Gun Runner’s offspring have an excellent 20 percent win rate on off tracks. The Pletcher trainee showed potential with a close third place in the Wood Memorial (G2), bested by a neck. In most years Dreamlike would be up against it. However, this group of 3-year-olds isn’t as strong as previous editions of the Penn Derby. Take it if you can get 10-1 on a promising Pletcher entry. Contender.

For a colt who’s only won once, Dreamlike has been a consistent runner for Todd Pletcher. The son of Gun Runner put together a pair of runner-up finishes in maiden company before just missing graduating in the Wood Memorial (G2) in his third start. He did finally get his picture taken in his fourth start when he romped to a 6 3/4-length victory in a 1 1/8-mile, $136,500 maiden event at Saratoga. Two from that field were next out winners. I agree with Laurie that Dreamlike’s last race is a toss. All five of Dreamlike’s races have resulted in Equibase Speed Figures in the 90s, including three straight 99s. With Irad Ortiz Jr. up, this colt is certainly an exotics play.


3. Saudi Crown, 7-2

This road warrior competed at four tracks from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles over fast and sloppy ground. Saudi Crown is two noses shy of being a stakes winner, including fighting Forte to a nose decision in the Jim Dandy (G2). Brad Cox gave Saudi Crown two back-to-back bullet works this month, so Always Dreaming’s son should be on his toes. Contender.


Saudi Crown is a master at adapting, having run at four different tracks in as many starts. The son of Always Dreaming is two noses shy of perfection, losing those close decisions to Fort Bragg and Forte in graded stakes. The 109 Equibase Speed Figure the colt earned last out in the Jim Dandy (G2) is one of the highest in the field. Additionally, that race was over a sloppy track, and we’re likely to see off going on Saturday. Contender.


4. Magic Tap, 5-1

Magic Tap’s Brisnet Speed Ratings have improved in each start this year, and Steve Asmussen has brought him along conservatively. Tapit’s son won his last race over Film Star, who returned to capture his last two starts at the allowance level. Although his late-pace ratings are middling, this soft Penn Derby field is an excellent spot to test Magic Tap’s class. Exotic play.


Magic Tap has a lose-win race cycle, and he’s on the down side of that cycle after winning his last race with a field-best 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Magic Tap was soundly beaten by Saudi Crown in his debut, finishing sixth, beaten by 12 3/4 lengths that day after traveling six furlongs. The son of Tapit has been a different colt since switching to an early-run style and stretching out to routes, however. Since that initial start, he’s gone 3: 2-1-0, a head away from making it three in a row. Contender.


5. Scotland, 5-1

Scotland hit Hadrian’s Wall around the final turn in the Travers Stakes (G1) and tired to sixth place, 10 lengths out of it. Before that the Bill Mott trainee bested Il Miracolo in the restricted Curlin Stakes. Good Magic’s son handled the off going at Saratoga, and he should rebound here. Contender.


Prior to the Travers (G1), Scotland was a nose shy of being undefeated, losing a close decision in his second career start. The son of Good Magic got a stiff class test in the Travers and was bested by more experienced, higher caliber competition than he had seen prior. I like him on the cutback in distance and the class relief, (which seems odd to say, but let’s face it, this is a terrible Grade 1 field. Junior Alvarado retains the mount for Bill Mott. Contender.


6. Daydreaming Boy, 12-1

The local hope Daydreaming Boy captured 4 of 9 starts at Parx. By Goldencents, the back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero, out of a daughter of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Corinthian, Daydreaming Boy’s distance range is a mile to a mile and 70 yards, maybe 1 1/16 miles against the right group. Pass.


If you like the horse-for-course angle, Daydreaming Boy is the one for you. The son of Goldencents is 9: 4-1-1 at Parx. In stakes races he’s gone 5: 0-1-1. He was most recently third, beaten by 4 3/4 lengths by Il Miracolo in the Smarty Jones (G3) over this course. He earned his best career speed figure three starts back when he received a 104 in a lower-level, optional claimer. Trainer Lou Linder Jr. is 5: 0-0-2 in graded stakes over the last five years, according to Race Lens. Pass.


7. West Coast Cowboy, 12-1

By 2017 Penn Derby winner West Coast, West Coast Cowboy has class that is suspect. In the West Virginia Derby (G3), the Saffie Joseph Jr. trainee had his hooves full trying to get by One in Vermillion, and Red Route One sailed by to a three-length conquest. West Coast Cowboy has a definite good-bad cycle, hitting the board every other race. He finished second in his last start so ... Pass.


With rain in the forecast, West Coast Cowboy may be one to take a look at. The West Coast colt won his debut on a sloppy track at Gulfstream, and his second career win came on a track labeled good. The Mountaineer track also was labeled good for the West Virginia Derby (G3), where he earned his second-best career Equibase Speed Figure (96) in finishing second. His best speed figure 98 came running fifth in the Iowa Derby. Use underneath if the track is off.


8. Gilmore, 10-1

Gilmore earned checks in a trio of graded events this spring but wasn’t a threat to the winners. The Brendan Walsh trainee gutted it out over optional claimers at Saratoga in his last start and needs to equal that effort to hit the board here. Pass.


For most of his career Gilmore has been racing at a mile or less. The exceptions to that are a pair of starts on Tapeta. He was second in the 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields while in the care of Bob Baffert and sixth in his first start for Brendan Walsh in the 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park. His best career Equibase Speed Figure is the 110 he received finishing third to Arabian Lion in the Woody Stephens (G1). His best route-race figure is the 98 he earned finishing third in the Pat Day Mile (G2). Pass.


9. Crupi, 15-1

Crupi discovered the winner’s circle in his eighth start, then he returned to conquer allowance-class runners at 1 1/8 miles over a muddy Saratoga strip, earning a career-best 101 Brisnet Speed Rating. Did the lightbulb finally come on for this Todd Pletcher trainee? By Curlin out of a daughter of Malibu Moon, Crupi has a later-maturing pedigree. With Paco Lopez riding, Crupi is worth an exotics play.


Crupi raced as a maiden in the Risen Star (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2) after five straight on-the-board finishes in maiden events. He was not a factor in either of those races. As Laurie indicated, the son of Curlin enters off two straight wins, including a 3 3/4-length victory in the slop at the Pennsylvania Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles. I could see him getting a minor placing against this group. Use underneath.


10. Il Miracolo, 8-1

Il Miracolo captured the local Penn Derby prep, the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3), by three lengths. Gun Runner’s son has issues. He bore out around the turn and continued drifting toward the grandstand down the lane with his head held high, and he seemingly had no clue what he was doing despite having a dozen races under his girth. Mychel Sanchez has the ride on the Antonio Sano trainee who is inconsistent. Pass.


Someone had to win the Smarty Jones (G3), right? In a race where the post-time favorite was a tepid $2.80 on the dollar, why not let it be the $3.80 third choice? Previously well overmatched in graded-stakes company, this colt did win by a clear three lengths, but it certainly wasn’t a result I had anticipated, even coming off a career-best race against Scotland in the Curlin Stakes. He earned a career-best 102 Equibase Speed Figure in the Curlin and a second-best 98 last out in the Smarty Jones (G3). Pass.


11.     Reincarnate, 3-1

After a pair of third-place finishes and an off-the-board placing in the Kentucky Derby this spring under Tim Yakteen’s watch, Reincarnate returned to life to win the Los Alamitos Derby after some Bob Baffert magic. Should Good Magic’s son equal his last effort, he’ll be tough to beat. Contender.


Reincarnate has only run one bad race in his life, that being a 13th in the Kentucky Derby. Put a line through that effort, and the son of Good Magic never has been out of the trifecta. The downside here is Reincarnate needs the lead to win, and he drew the outside post against some quality speed. Juan Hernandez, who was aboard in the Los Alamitos Derby, retains the mount for Bob Baffert. Contender.


Final thoughts


Seven favorites won or placed in their Pennsylvania Derby prep in the last dozen years. Five favorites won, and one placed second. Although speed doesn’t rule, eight of the last 12 winners were pace pressers or setters.

Bob Baffert owns four PennsyPennsylvania Derby trophies and has a second shot of winning the race in back to back years like he did in 2016 and 2017 with West Coast and McKenzie.

Reincarnate needs to be on the lead or pressing the pace, and he’ll use energy early to get a good position, especially with Il Miracolo directly to his inside. Magic Tap may join him. Saudi Crown and Scotland like to be near the pace, but both have successfully rated. Dreamlike and Crupi will settle behind the pace or mid-pack and try to mow them down in the stretch.

Saudi Crown showed class missing the Jim Dandy by a nose to Forte. I’ll pick him on top. Scotland cuts back in distance and can rate off the speed. Dreamlike and Crupi haven’t done anything wrong and are worth long-shot looks.


From a pure class standpoint, this is a disappointing edition of the Pennsylvania Derby. When a race is top tier with a $1 million purse, you expect to see the crème de la crème. But with many of the top 3-year-olds training up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, we’re left with this field

Reincarnate is probably the obvious choice here considering he hails from the Bob Baffert barn and has a pretty solid record against some of the crop’s best runners. Saudi Crown just missed to champion Forte last out in the Jim Dandy, and Scotland was an impressive winner of the Curlin Stakes over eventual inexplicable Smarty Jones winner Il Miracolo. Dreamlike, West Coast Cowboy and Daydreaming Boy all hit the board in suspect graded stakes. Gilmore likely will have distance issues.

As for pace, I fully expect Reincarnate to rocket out of that outside post and go looking for the lead. He definitely should be accompanied by inside speed Saudi Crown and Magic Tap, and Il Miracolo does his best running on the lead as well. I anticipate a quick opening quarter with the pace evening out as the early leaders sort themselves out up front.

Personally, I think Scotland is a lot better than he showed in the Travers. He gets the cutback in distance and class relief here, and I believe he’ll show up in a big way. Look for him to sit off those early leaders and be one of the first to pounce.




  3. Saudi Crown, 7-2

  5. Scotland, 5-1

  5. Scotland, 5-1

  3. Saudi Crown, 7-2

11. Reincarnate, 3-1

11. Reincarnate, 3-1

  2. Dreamlike, 10-1

  4. Magic Tap, 5-1

Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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