Analysis: Mr. Money's sharp form stands out in Pennsylvania Derby

September 18, 2019 11:51am
Analysis: Mr. Money's sharp form stands out in Pennsylvania Derby
Photo: Coady
Mr. Money traveled a softer path to Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. While he turned a new corner in spring, in most cases, the horse that has run against lesser competition deserves skepticism.

But this is a different case, especially with the favorite Maximum Security scratching due to a colic episode. Mr. Money's now left as the pressing horse through a softer pace.

First, a recap of what got Mr. Money here:

Four starts ago in the Pat Day Mile (G3) at Churchill Downs, Mr. Money beat Hog Creek Hustle by 5 ¼ lengths. Hog Creek Hustle went on to win the Woody Stephens (G1) and ran second in the Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1).

Three back, he blitzed the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) by 6 ½ lengths over Signalman, who came off a ninth-place finish in the Preakness. While Signalman ran at a high level last fall, he did not progress this year.

Next, Mr. Money won Indiana Derby (G3) by 2 ½ lengths over Gray Magician, with Math Wizard back in third after some traffic problems. Gray Magician went on to capture the Ellis Park Derby by a half-length over the troubled Knicks Go, who lacks any win since the 2018 Breeders' Futurity (G1). 

Mr. Money's most recent start saw him coasting home in the West Virginia Derby (G3) by six lengths over Chess Chief, who later on ran eighth in the Travers Stakes (G1). The third-place Plus Que Parfait previously ran eighth, too, in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Belmont Derby (G1).

But in his races, regardless of the competition, notice Mr. Money's tactical speed. Because he loves to sit a length or two off the pacesetter, Mr. Money is in prime position approaching the far turn, always giving himself  first run.

On the TimeformUS scale, Mr. Money's top speed figure is a 124, the second-highest in the field notched in the Matt Winn.

While bettors could go overboard on Mr. Money, it is hard to knock his form since the Pat Day Mile. This is a sharp horse in a weakened Grade 1. 

He'll have to contend with Improbable, trained Bob Baffert and the anticipated favorite with Maximum Security's defection.

After running fifth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness Stakes, both times as the top betting choice, Improbable freshened up. He came back at in August at Del Mar with blinkers, winning the Shared Belief Stakes by 2 ¾ lengths. 

The blinkers encouraged more speed out of Improbable, as he pressed the pacesetter and opened up in mid-stretch. 



To keep his margin on King Jack, Improbable did need some strikes with the whip. But overall, it was a great effort off the layoff and fast, too. 

On TimeformUS, Improbable earned a whopping 127.

Furthermore, notice how his stablemate Mucho Gusto significantly improved in the summer. Perhaps these Baffert 3-year-olds needed more time to round into form.

But the main concern here is distance. Despite the route influences on Improbable's bottom side, some believe City Zip progeny only want to sprint. Then again, most handicappers labeled Mucho Gusto as short on stamina before he proved them wrong when finishing second to Maximum Security in the Haskell Invitational (G1).

My third most-likely Pennsylvania Derby winner is War of Will. After his Preakness victory, War of Will disappointed in the Belmont Stakes with a ninth-place finish and then ran fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) as well.

It is possible War of Will will fire back to his Preakness form, as the connections skipped the Travers Stakes (G1) to give him a breather. He also continues to look happy and healthy in the mornings based on a series of workout videos from XBTV.

But off his Belmont and Jim Dandy efforts, it is hard to trust him completely. He needs subpar performances out of the two horses above. 

Math Wizard and Spun to Run also deserve some space, but neither horses are win contenders. At most, they only are possible to pick up third. 

The former's current form is concerning. After finishing third in the Indiana Derby, he ran a lifeless sixth in the West Virginia Derby. But if Math Wizard duplicates his second-place effort in the Ohio Derby (G3), he might place here.

Spun to Run, a fresh horse running better with blinkers these days, is on the upswing after finishing third in the Haskell and capturing the local Smarty Jones Stakes (G3). 

In horizontals, Mr. Money works as an A. If not used as a single, then War of Will and Improbable are possible Bs to use alongside him.

Vertically, Mr. Money over War of Will will pay more in an exacta than Mr. Money over Improbable. But the latter scenario is more probable.

It only makes sense to play a straight exacta, as the value is not there to use a wheel in a six-horse field. I'm leaning toward Mr. Money over Improbable. 

Win: 6
Exacta: 6 / 2

 

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