The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Saturday attracted six runners from the Kentucky Derby in field of 11 that includes four Grade 1 winners.
The 1 1/8-mile Penn Derby is the final Grade 1 stakes race restricted to 3-year-olds that is run around two turns. The seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 is the final big race of the year for this division.
The field also includes a Grade 2 winner, three Grade 3 winners and four trainers with prior victories in the Penn Derby. Bob Baffert won the race three times since 2014 with Bayern, West Coast and McKinzie.
Here is a full-field analysis for the Penn Derby, with the official track morning-line odds from Parx Racing. The race is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. EDT and is listed as race 12 of 13 on a card that includes 10 stakes.
1. Zandon (5-1 – Upstart – Chad Brown / Joel Rosario – 7: 2-2-3 -$1,258,000) Zandon finished in the top three in all seven of his career starts with a debut maiden win and then six Grade 1 or 2 stakes races. He won the Blue Grass (G1) and then was third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), second in the Jim Dandy and third in the Travers (G1). Zandon raced at six tracks and finished behind Epicenter in four of those starts. He is a millionaire who just has not been able to find the winner’s circle recently. Use underneath.
2. Icy Storm (40-1 – Keen Ice – Felix Flores-Coba / Jeremy Laprida – 10: 4-1-0 - $72,820) Icy Storm has four wins in his record, but three of them were in low-level claimers at three tracks for a Parx-based trainer. He was a debut winner at Indiana in his only start as a 2-year-old and was second in an allowance at Parx last month. Toss.
3. B Dawk (20-1 – Gormley – Doug O’Neill / Frankie Pennington – 8: 2-2-2 - $148,825) Trainer Doug O’Neill won last year’s Penn Derby with Hot Rod Charlie, but B Dawk is only an allowance winner at this point in his career. He broke his maiden in his fifth start at Keeneland in the spring and then was second in the Sir Barton on Preakness weekend. B Dawg got that allowance victory at Ellis Park in July. Toss.
4. Skippylongstocking (10-1 – Exaggerator – Saffie Joseph Jr. / Edwin Gonzalez – 12: 3-1-3 - $672,600) Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. won the 2019 Penn Derby with long shot Math Wizard. Skippylongstocking was the recent winner of the West Virginia Derby (G3) after finishing third in the Belmont Stakes. He got his first two victories at the trainer’s home base at Gulfstream Park in a maiden and an allowance five starts later. He moved into stakes company when he was third in the Wood Memorial (G2) behind Mo Donegal. Live long shot.
5. Cyberknife (3-1 – Gun Runner – Brad Cox / Florent Geroux – 10: 5-3-0 - $1,826,520) Cyberknife will try to win his third Grade 1 of the year to go with the Arkansas Derby and Haskell Stakes. He was 18th in the Kentucky Derby, won the Matt Winn (G3) and was second in the Travers behind Epicenter. He found the winners’ circle at four tracks. Is it possible that a third Grade 1 victory would give him a chance to win the 3-year-old championship? Win contender.
6. We the People (12-1 – Constitution – Rodolphe Brisset / Flavien Prat – 6: 3-1-0 - $430,250) We the People won his first two starts at Oaklawn Park during the late winter and then ran seventh in the Arkansas Derby. Since then with front-end efforts, the son of Constitution romped in the Peter Pan (G3) setting up a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. Back on a preferred wet track, We the People was second in the West Virginia Derby after setting the early fractions. Expect him to be setting the pace again at Parx. Toss.
7. Tawny Port (6-1 – Pioneerof the Nile – Brad Cox / Irad Ortiz Jr. – 8: 4-1-0 - $799,000) Tawny Port won his first two races on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park before moving onto the Derby trail, where he earned points in the Jeff Ruby (G3) and then won the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland. In the Kentucky Derby, he was a creditable seventh. Like so many Derby horses this year, he moved on to run well, winning the Ohio Derby (G3) and getting third in the Jim Dandy (G2). Live long shot.
8. Taiba (5-2 – Gun Runner – Bob Baffert / Mike Smith – 4: 2-1-0 - $690,200) – Taiba is the most lightly raced horse in the field, with only four starts. He won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in only his second start, which sent him to the Kentucky Derby, where he was 5-1 and finished 12th. In July, Taiba battled gamely down the stretch with Cyberknife to finish a head behind that winner. He has a series of bullet workouts in California as Baffert looks for another victory in the Penn Derby. Win contender.
9. Simplification (10-1 – Not This Time – Antonio Sano / Paco Lopez – 10: 3-1-3 - $715,350) Simplification has a pair of stakes wins at Gulfstream Park this year, including the Fountain of Youth (G2). After a third in the Florida Derby (G1) behind White Abarrio, he was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and then sixth in the Preakness. After a freshening, Simplification came back to finish third in the West Virginia Derby behind Skippylongstocking. Live long shot.
10. Naval Aviator (20-1 – Tapit – Joe Sharp / Abner Adorno – 7: 3-2-0 - $162,630) Naval Aviator was claimed for $50,000 after a victory at Churchill Downs in May and now is in the barn of Joe Sharp, who brought him back to win a starter allowance at the Kentucky track. Most recently, he was second in a Saratoga allowance in July behind Keepmeinmind after a rough trip. Naval Aviator shows a pair of workouts at Parx since then. Toss.
11. White Abarrio (8-1 – Race Day – Saffie Joseph Jr. / Luis Saez – 8: 4-1-1 - $936,150) With White Abarrio, it still has to be said that he has yet to win a race outside of Gulfstream Park. In Florida, he won the Holy Bull (G3) and the Florida Derby and then was 16th in the run for the roses. Add a second in the Ohio Derby and then a distant seventh-place finish in the Haskell since then. Interestingly, White Abarrio spent the summer training at Saratoga but did not make a start at the New York track. Maybe the work on the deeper racing surface at the Spa will help him to run better at Parx, which is also a heavier track. Live long shot.
Summary: Clearly, this year’s Penn Derby is loaded with talented 3-year-olds who are currently in excellent form.
Cyberknife and Taiba are the likeliest winners and the top two choices in the morning line as they match again after they were separated by only a head in the Haskell.
But in this field of 11, the horses who are classified as live long shots – Skippylongstocking, Tawny Port, Simplification and White Abarrio – are worth your consideration to win or use underneath in an exacta and trifecta if you want to play against the favorites.