Parx Racing offers two traditional highlights in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion Stakes and Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Saturday, and both graded stakes races contain at least one interesting runner on the improve who can outrun their odds with a top effort.
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The two horses in question might start as the fourth or fifth choice in their respective races. Keep reading below to find out about them and see final bets for each race.
Parx race 12: Cotillion Stakes (G1)
Although Pretty Mischievous shows a three-race win streak and seven wins in nine starts, she never seems to run that fast. On TimeformUS, Pretty Mischievous’ highest speed figure came when she won the Acorn Stakes (G1) with a 118, and last time in the Test Stakes (G1) she won with a 112.
One filly who might upset the race is Just Katherine, who has been improving rapidly in her most recent starts for trainer Jose Jimenez.
Two starts ago, Just Katherine ran second to the fast Randomized in the Wilton Stakes at Saratoga while earning a 111 on TimeformUS. She only lost to Randomized by 1 1/2 lengths after Randomized went uncontested on the lead early through fractions labeled as slow by TimeformUS.
Randomized went on to back up the quality of the Wilton by capturing the Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in gate-to-wire fashion again in her next start. In the Alabama, Randomized won by four lengths over the accomplished Wet Paint, who previously won the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in July and was favored in the Kentucky Oaks.
Just Katherine went on to post another career high by winning a Saratoga optional claiming race earlier this month with a 113 on TimeformUS. In that one-mile contest, she won by 1 3/4 lengths over Raging Sea, the third-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year. Raging Sea has been on the comeback trail, but she probably ran back to a graded-stakes level effort in her second to Just Katherine.
The difference between Just Katherine and Pretty Mischievous is not insurmountable. In fact, Brisnet users might note that Just Katherine holds the field-high Brisnet Speed Rating of 101, which came in the Wilton run.
In case it rains, also pay attention to Just Katherine’s race three starts ago at Belmont, where she ran third against Sunset Louise and Sacred Wish over mud. Before the race against Randomized, that was her best effort.
Just Katherine is 12-1 on the morning line and still makes a good win and place bet at 9-2.
Win and place: 6, at 9-2 or longer
Parx race 13: Pennsylvania Derby (G1)
Saudi Crown brings big speed figures to Parx after running second to Forte in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and Fort Bragg in the Dwyer Stakes (G3) in his last two starts. Before Arcangelo won the Travers Stakes (G1), Forte arguably stood as the division leader when Saudi Crown only lost by a nose to him.
However, Saudi Crown faces pressure from the Bob Baffert-trained Reincarnate, who figures to hustle out of post no. 11 under Juan Hernandez and either gun for the lead or pressure Saudi Crown through the initial stages.
Maybe one of them will survive. But another improving runner to consider is Il Miracolo. Similar to Just Katherine in the Cotillion, Il Miracolo has made a jump forward in his past two starts by finishing second to Scotland in the Curlin at Saratoga and winning the local Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) by three lengths.
Saudi Crown shows lofty TimeformUS figures of 128 and 125, but Il Miracolo’s 121 for winning the Smarty Jones gives him the field’s second highest TimeformUS figure (using the weight off option in preferences).
Il Miracolo had trouble keeping a straight line in the stretch of the Smarty Jones. Yet, he still won by three lengths over Cagliostro, who finished a good third behind Verifying in the Indiana Derby (G3) and also ran second by a head to Scotland in an allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs.
If Saudi Crown fails to fire because of pace pressure or other reasons, Il Miracolo could find himself on the lead by default as the outside stalker. Assuming Il Miracolo can then keep a straight line in the stretch this time, he can win. The only concern is the rain in the forecast, as Il Miracolo’s lone start over wet dirt in the Remsen Stakes (G2) last December resulted in a 31-length loss. But he was still developing.
Otherwise, maybe Saudi Crown or Reincarnate will find a way to endure the pace scenario with each other and hold on for the win even after fast fractions. Reincarnate runs for trainer Bob Baffert, and his horses tend to perform well in this race. With that said, Reincarnate will need to run faster than when he won the Los Alamitos Derby back in early July.
Magic Tap and Scotland own mild chances to win as well. Magic Tap just beat older horses in a Saratoga optional claiming race on Aug. 13, while Scotland faded to sixth in the loaded Travers Stakes (G1) after setting the pace. Before the Travers, Scotland had beaten Il Miracolo by just a little over three lengths in the Curlin Stakes.
Similar to Il Miracolo, both Magic Tap and Scotland figure to settle close to the leaders by stalking. They need an opening in the race to capitalize on.
The play is to bet Il Miracolo to win and backwheel him under those four names, although if the track ends up sloppy then perhaps skipping the race entirely is best.
Win: 10, at 9-2 or longer
Exacta wheel: 3,11 over 10
Exacta wheel: 4,5 over 10