Pennsylvania Derby attracts 21 nominees, gets national TV spot

By Anthony Affrunti/Parx Racing
September 10, 2019 02:00pm

This year's Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby drew 21 nominations toward a start in the 40th Running of the 1 1/8-mile event set for September 21 at Parx Racing. 

The Penn Derby, promoted to Grade 1 status in 2017, has become an important prep race for 3-year-olds hoping for a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic. It will be broadcast nationally for the first time on NBC from 5-6 p.m. ET with the Cotillion (G1) for fillies the co-feature.

Headlining the Penn Derby group amid a wide open sophomore division is Gary and Mary West's Maximum Security, who comes off a game 1 1/4-length victory in the July 20 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park. 
The Jason Servis-trained colt entered the gate in the May 4 Kentucky Derby perfect through four starts while boasting a 3 1/2 length score in the Florida Derby, his only start amid the Derby Trail. The son of New Year's Day topped the field of 18 others in the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths before being disqualified to 17th for causing interference at the top of the stretch.

Maximum Security skipped the rest of the Triple Crown series and instead made his next start in the $150,000 Pegasus at Monmouth Park where he stumbled at the break and finished second behind winner King for a Day. The Pennsylvania Derby could be the first time the earner of $1,279,400 will face any of his Kentucky Derby foes since the controversial and historical Triple Crown classic.

Gary Barber's Preakness Stakes winner War of Will is one such adversary that looks to return to the winners' circle after failing to do so in his last two starts. High hopes for victory at Saratoga were dashed when he found himself on the lead but tired to fifth in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy (G2) on July 27. The Kentucky-bred began his 3-year-old year with a four-length victory in Fair Grounds' Leomte (G3), then returned less than a month later to win the Risen Star (G2) by 2 1/4 lengths.

Casse decided to continue his colt's successful Derby campaign at Fair Grounds, but the streak was broken as War of Will failed to make an impact as the favorite and finished a disappointing ninth. His next start came in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy and sealed track, and looked to be in contention at the top of the lane before being forced to check as Maximum Security ran toward his outside. War of Will finished eighth, but was placed seventh after his rival's disqualification.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is likely to ship his Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) winner Improbable east from California for another date against the top 3-year-olds. A win by Improbable would give Baffert his third straight victory and fourth in Pennsylvania Derby history after he saddled West Coast and McKinzie to back-to-back victories three years after winning his first with Bayern in 2014. Bayern owns the stakes record at 1:46.96 for the 1 1/8 miles.

Improbable, the City Zip colt owned by WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd. and Starlight Racing, returned to his winning ways in his last start by beating three others in the $100,000 Shared Belief at Del Mar. 
The Kentucky-bred post two second-place finishes in both the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) on the Triple Crown trail before being placed in the Kentucky Derby and then sixth in the Preakness as the race favorite.

Allied Racing Stable LLC will send multiple graded stakes winner Mr. Money, who has been living up to his name as of late as he seeks his fifth straight victory, and first Grade 1 win after drawing off to win four straight Grade 3 starts: the Pat Day Mile, Matt Winn, Indiana Derby and West Virginia Derby. The Bret Calhoun-trained speedy son of Goldencents has earned $1,074,220 through 10 lifetime starts.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher plans to saddle the Wertheimer and Frere-owned Spinoff for his seventh start of the year after adding blinkers and drawing clear to win by 5 3/4 lengths against allowance level foes at Saratoga. A graded stakes victory has eluded the chestnut son of Hard Spun, who will make his fourth attempt at a Grade 1 win after finishing 18th and then sixth in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, respectively. Pletcher tested his Kentucky-bred's turf pedigree in his start two back when he broke from the gate in the Belmont Derby (G1). Spinoff tired to 11th amid the field of 14. Pletcher won the Pennsylvania Derby in 2002 with Harlan's Holiday.

Godolphin's Endorsed may be the most lightly raced colt among the field, but the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained son of Medaglia d' Oro seems to be maturing at the right time. A winner in his debut at Saratoga as a 2-year-old, Endorsed returned with a tiring sixth place finish in the Champagne (G1) to end his freshman year. Endorsed returned off an eight-month break and bested allowance foes at six furlongs, then stretched out to 1 1/8 miles and ran a strong second in the $100,000 Curlin over muddy going at Saratoga. Still searching for his first graded stakes win, the Kentucky-bred closed belatedly for fourth in the Travers Stakes (G1). A victory by Endorsed would give McLaughlin his second Penn Derby win after Frosted captured the race in 2015.

Robert P. Donaldson's Spun to Run may be the lone entrant in the field to boast a home track advantage over the course after earning his first graded stakes victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) on September 2. The Juan Carlos Guerrero-trained son of Hard Spun has three wins from five starts at Parx, and displayed his talent in Haskell Invitational on July 20 when he donned blinkers and finished third behind Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto, who went on to finish a strong third in the Travers.

With that rounding out the race probables, others nominated to the Pennsylvania Derby are: Cairo Cat, Chilly in Charge, Code of Honor, Extra Hope, King Jack, Majid, Math Wizard, Mucho Gusto, Omaha Beach, Parsimony, Tacitus and Tax.

2019 Pennsylvania Derby (G1)


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