Hofburg is the one to hold off in Pennsylvania Derby

The Grade I, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, Parx’s annual centerpiece event, takes place this Saturday. The prestigious 1 1/8-mile heat for three-year-olds attracted a field of 10. Post time for the Pennsylvania Derby, Race 11 on a lucrative 13-race program, is 5:45 p.m. EST. In addition to watching and wagering, be sure to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#2 HOFBURG (3-1) crushed four foes in a sloppy renewal of the Curlin Stakes when last seen. He tried to use that race as a springboard to the Travers, but a minor illness cost him that start. HOFBURG shows a pair of tremendous works for trainer Bill Mott leading into the Pennsylvania Derby, so he seems none the worse for wear. Many have pegged him as the horse to watch in the second half of this year; this will be an acid test. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the call on the top choice in this race.

#7 MR FREEZE (12-1) blew away the West Virginia Derby field last time out, winning by eight lengths. This looks like a tougher assignment, but based on that last speed figure, he has a case at 12-1. MR FREEZE earned that recent win on the lead but has won from well back in the past. Robby Albarado maintains the assignment.

#10 BRAVAZO (6-1) was the only one making up significant ground behind frontrunning Catholic Boy and Mendelssohn in the Travers last time out, running into the trifecta. He hasn’t won in six straight, but he’s given a good account of himself in plenty of tough spots this year. BRAVAZO can’t be ignored under jockey Luis Saez.

#6 AXELROD (5-1) was last seen winning the Smarty Jones, the local prep for the Pennsylvania Derby, by four lengths. Joe Bravo sees fit to stay aboard after guiding him to that convincing victory in which he earned a solid speed figure. The late-developing AXELROD shouldn’t be dismissed while stepping up in class.

#8 MCKINZIE (2-1, morning-line favorite) hasn’t raced since March, when he was DQ’d from a win in the San Felipe at Santa Anita. He was among the leaders on many an early Derby leaderboard and his form is competitive, but MCKINZIE is not a great bet at 2-1 or less spotting recency and traveling an great distance for the first time in his career. Mike Smith will be aboard.

The play: $4 exacta 2/6,7,10 ($12)

DFJ analysis: Irad Ortiz Jr. holds a strong hand at Parx on Saturday, with his ace being HOFBURG in the Pennsylvania Derby. He also rides consecutive favorites in Races 2 and 3 as well as favored Firenze Fire in the Gallant Bob. Chocolate Martini gives Ortiz a shot at landing a share in the Cotillion, the $1 million race for fillies led by heavily-favored Monomoy Girl.

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