Horse Racing Nation expert picks: Pennsylvania Derby

Horse Racing Nation expert picks: Pennsylvania Derby
Photo: Jessica Morgan / Eclipse Sportswire

The Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby happens Saturday at Parx. The race drew a field of 11 3-year-olds, who will likely have to face sloppy conditions as they cover 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. Reincarnate has been named the morning-line favorite off of his Los Alamitos Derby victory and his trainer Bob Baffert's strong recent record in the race.

Saudi Crown, most recently second by a nose in the Jim Dandy (G2), faces top-level company for the first time in the Pennsylvania Derby. Other leading contenders include the improving Magic Tap, Curlin Stakes winner Scotland and Smarty Jones (G3) winner Il Miracolo.

Head to Head: Handicap the Pennsylvania Derby 2023 at Parx

This is how writers at Horse Racing Nation plan to play the Pennsylvania Derby.

Ed DeRosa, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: No. 3 Saudi Crown

On the board: No. 4 Magic Tap

Long shot I like: No. 8 Gilmore

Analysis: Saudi Crown just looks the best of these. He'll certainly be favored, but hopefully Reincarnate attracts enough money to make him playable.

Ron Flatter, Ron Flatter Racing Pod

Winner: No. 3 Saudi Crown

On the board: No. 2 Dreamlike

Long shot I like: No. 7 West Coast Cowboy

Analysis: This entire projection depends on the roughly 1-2 favorite coming through Saturday. That would be the rain that the National Weather Service declared at mid-week to be 70 percent certain. I loved Saudi Crown in the Jim Dandy (G2), and the argument has been made that my ticket should have cashed that day. Most important is the fact that he looked good in the slop that afternoon regardless of the bumper-car ride he got from Forte. A couple 100-plus Beyer Speed Figures from Daily Racing Form do not hurt either. I also trust him far more than Reincarnate, whose competition outside the Kentucky Derby has been inferior. Dreamlike gets that ever-loving, blinkers-off line that I like to see with a Todd Pletcher colt, and his poor start last out as the 9-10 favorite has a big, fat line running through it. West Coast Cowboy looks like he is being tightened for this race what with the steady progress of his breezes, and he has won twice on wet tracks. I will be win, place and exacta tickets here, since the takeout is reasonable for those. I stop short of the 25 percent rip-off on trifectas. I will put Saudi Crown cold over Dreamlike and West Coast Cowboy in exacta bets with every expectation that Florent Géroux is the only jockey who will come back with clean silks and goggles.

Jarrod Horak, Today's Best Bet

Winner: No. 11 Reincarnate

On the board: No. 3 Saudi Crown, no. 5 Scotland

Long shot I like: No. 8 Gilmore

Analysis: Reincarnate has the best overall stakes form and the versatile colt is proven at 1 1/8 miles. He might be able to make the lead from the outside post. Scotland fits with these if he runs back to his Curlin victory. Saudi Crown lost tough decisions in both stakes tries. He might want less ground. Gilmore picked up minor awards in four stakes stakes this year. He can land a piece of the purse at a price. 

Reinier Macatangay, Setting the Pace

Winner: No. 10 Il Miracolo

On the board: No. 3 Saudi Crown

Long shot I like: No. 5 Scotland

Analysis: Il Miracolo spent most of the year struggling in stakes races, but he has went forward in his last few starts with a runner-up finish to Scotland in the Curlin Stakes and a three-length win in the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) on this same Parx racetrack. In this spot, he can use the same tactics as last time and perch himself outside the expected speed horses Saudi Crown, Reincarnate and maybe even Scotland. With some luck, Il Miracolo can post a mild surprise at overlaid odds, or at least make the second spot pay well. Those other three names mentioned, plus Magic Tap, work as players to use with Il Miracolo in a backwheel.

Win: 10 (at 5-1 or higher)

Exacta wheel: 3, 11 over 10

Exacta wheel (for less money): 4, 5 over 10

Rowan Ward, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: No. 9 Crupi

On the board: No. 4 Magic Tap, no. 11 Reincarnate

Long shot I like: No. 9 Crupi

Analysis: This is the sort of race where I don't love anyone in particular but there is a long shot I cannot dismiss, so I'm going to go ahead and side with him: Crupi. Though he only beat off-turf runners last out, he handled the slop well and has shown enough tactical versatility to work a trip off of a likely hotly-contested pace. The improving Magic Tap pressed a sharp pace at this distance last out and kept on to win by a neck, an ability that should serve him well. Reincarnate is mired on the outside, but Bob Baffert tends to send horses ready to go in this race and he ran well enough in the Rebel (G2) to suggest he can handle muddy conditions.

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