Math Wizard emerges late in 30-1 Pennsylvania Derby upset win

September 21, 2019 05:32pm
Math Wizard emerges late in 30-1 Pennsylvania Derby upset win
With any of five horses in contention late for Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, the least likely of them prevailed when Math Wizard blew by to steal Parx Racing's signature event.

From claimer to graded stakes-placed to now a top-level winner, the son of Algorithms struck at 30-1, edging out post time favorite Mr. Money in a final time of 1:50 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles.

Math Wizard came from well off the pace in what was a slow race up front, where Mr. Money, under a tight hold by jockey Gabriel Saez, clicked off fractions of 24 2/5 and 49 3/5.

That didn't stop Math Wizard from rallying under pickup rider Irad Ortiz Jr. -- one of the best in the business secured on race day. While Math Wizard had just hopeless maiden Shanghai Superfly beat up the back stretch, he made his way into a five-way duel up in the final 1/8.

"It was a crazy call," trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said of giving the Pennsylvania Derby a try in the first place.

Then morning line favorite Maximum Security scratched due to a colic episode. Ortiz Jr. took the mount. And the upset was on.

"You still don't believe it," Joseph added. "I would have walked away happy running third or fourth. To walk away with this result -- oh, it's amazing."

War of Willl, the Preakness Stakes winner, ran third with Improbable fourth after missing the break, handing the lead to Mr. Money.
Joseph claimed Math Wizard for $25,000 early this year and entered the Pennsylvania Derby following an off-the-board finish in the West Virginia Derby (G1). The colt had also placed in the Ohio Derby (G3) and Indiana Derby (G3) but hadn't won since Joseph made that shrewd claim back in January.

"We just got him at the right time," Joseph said.

Math Wizard wound up the first Grade 1 starter for Joseph, a native of Barbados who's based at Gulfstream Park. The third-generation horseman won his first U.S. training title earlier this season at Gulfstream -- and he made sure to say hello to his father back at home when interviewed on NBC after the Pennsylvania Derby.

As an aside, Math Wizard and Maximum Security have faced one another before. The day Maximum Security's connections got away with running him for a $16,000 tag, Math Wizard finished third back on Dec. 20, 2018.

To complete the other half of that rare rise from the claiming ranks, Ortiz Jr. said he received a "perfect trip" Saturday, opting to follow Improbable through on the far turn as the California shipper advanced forward.

"At the half mile I made my way outside of him," Ortiz Jr. said of Improbable. "He was coming little by little, but when (Math Wizard) turned for home and he switched leads, then he took off. He ran hard.

"When I turned for home and I opened the reins and he started taking off I said, ‘I’m going to get there.’"

Trainer Bob Baffert, relaying his post-race conversation with jockey Mike Smith, said Improbable "heard a noise" that caused him to act up before the break. The colt had to be reloaded, then hopped just before the gate opened.

It’s just bad luck," Baffert said. "It is very frustrating when you go that far and he pulls that stuff. He had been doing really well. He still ran pretty well.”

Other conditioners expressed bewilderment by the result.

No excuses -- just got outrun," said Bret Calhoun, who conditions Mr. Money, a neck short to end his four-race winning streak. "Kind of surprised to be outrun by a horse we beat pretty handily a couple times."

"I thought he ran pretty well," added Mark Casse, who trains War of Will. "He never gave up. That was my concern after the last couple. I was proud of him today. It’s crazy, you didn’t think they were running very fast but the winner came running. I will talk to the boss (owner Gary Barber) and see what he wants to do.

"We had a great trip. To me, what was surprising, the pace was not fast and that horse came from out of it.”


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