The Grade II, $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby is the feature event at Parx Racing on Saturday, and it drew a star-studded field of 12. Leading the way are Kentucky Derby winner NYQUIST and Preakness Stakes winner EXAGGERATOR, who will square off for the sixth time in their respective careers (NYQUIST holds a 3-2 advantage). They’ll also be joined by GUN RUNNER, who completed the Derby trifecta back in May, as well as multiple graded stakes winner CUPID, among others. Post time for the Pennsylvania Derby is 5:45 p.m. EST, and it goes as Race 11 on the program.
Many of the nation’s top riders will be at Parx on Saturday, so be sure to study these races carefully if you’re playing FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!
#9 NYQUIST was established as the 5-2 morning-line favorite; not an unusual designation for him. But we might see a change in tactics from the multiple graded stakes winner. Trainer Doug O’Neill has told reporters that he will not instruct jockey Mario Gutierrez to go to the lead on NYQUIST like he did in the Preakness Stakes and Haskell Invitational, and would rather come from off the pace. This should work to NYQUIST’s advantage, as he won’t have to combat confirmed frontrunner #5 CUPID early.
However, #1 AWESOME SLEW, #3 SUMMER REVOLUTION, and #12 HIT IT ONCE MORE should all be near the front as well to ensure a fast pace, meaning #2 EXAGGERATOR (9-2) and his patented late foot should not be compromised. EXAGGERATOR clearly excels on a wet track but can handle a fast strip too. He’s also been training well since coming up empty in the Travers Stakes. His Travers effort can be excused as he was trying to join an exclusive list of horses that won both the Haskell and the Travers; not an easy feat. Kent Desormeaux maintains the mount.
#7 GUN RUNNER (6-1) should be involved late under Florent Geroux. He was a solid third in the Travers last time out behind freakish winner Arrogate. It was a good rebound effort off his lackluster fifth in the Haskell (which was probably due to the wet track). GUN RUNNER and Geroux have already teamed up for three graded stakes wins this year (the Risen Star, Louisiana Derby and Matt Winn) and two additional in-the-money finishes.
#4 CONNECT (12-1) merits respect at a square price for trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano. He didn’t care for the off-the-pace tactics John Velazquez employed in the Travers (not that he was winning that day) but hinted at ability in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga two starts ago. Castellano teamed up with CONNECT to take an allowance race earlier this year.
The play: $4 trifecta 2,9/2,9/4,7, $4 win 2 ($20)
DFJ analysis: Florent Geroux ($10,500) has a good chance to hit the board with all four of his mounts on the card. He’ll ride Granny’s Kitten (7-2) in the Alphabet Soup Handicap, Tale of Life (3-1) in the PA Derby Champion Stakes and Counterforce (8-1) in the Grade III Gallant Bob before getting a leg up on GUN RUNNER in the Pennsylvania Derby.
Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking