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Photo courtesy of Eclipse SportsWire

By Claire Novak, @BH_CNovakBlood-Horse

J. Paul Reddam's Handsome Mike staged a Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) shocker at Parx Racing Sept. 22, taking the $1 million event at odds of 19-1.

Dead-heat Travers (gr. I) winner Golden Ticket was third, while Alpha, who also dead-heated in the Travers, finished sixth as the 3-5 favorite. Handsome Mike, the longest shot in a field of seven sophomores, went 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.63, crossing the wire two lengths clear of West Virginia Derby (gr. II) winner Macho Macho.

In two races prior to the Pennsylvania Derby—the Aug. 18 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) on the Arlington Park lawn and the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on dirt at Monmouth Park—Handsome Mike ran fourth sent off at 19-1. The son of Scat Daddy was also fourth in the Vinery Spiral Stakes (gr. III) on Polytrack at Turfway Park in March, albeit at shorter odds.

Fourth no more, the winner placed himself forwardly at the start under restraint from jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. He naturally inherited the lead as jockey Ramon Dominguez struggled to settle a fractious Alpha, who had been irate in the gate and was momentarily pinched at the break. Alpha momentarily headed Handsome Mike after a steady quarter in :25.08, but the eventual winner simply increased his tempo on the outside to regain control through a half in :49.37 and three-quarters in 1:14.02.  

The race was wide-open as Handsome Mike carried his advantage into the stretch, but none of the closing sophomores could get up in time. Macho Macho moved from fifth at the head of the lane to his runner-up position, while Golden Ticket was a neck back to complete the trifecta after getting outfinished.

Handsome Mike returned $40.40, $14, and $9.80 while Macho Macho brought $5 and $4.20 and Golden Ticket paid $4. Stephanoatsee, Casual Trick, Alpha, and Csaba completed the order of finish. Junebugred scratched to run in the Oct. 6 Indiana Derby (gr. II).

Handsome Mike races for trainer Doug O'Neill, but Leandro Mora was listed as the trainer of record while O'Neill continues to serve a 45-day suspension. O'Neill, who conditioned I'll Have Another to victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) earlier in the season, will return to training Sept. 28 at Santa Anita Park.

The dark bay colt was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis out of the Smart Strike   mare Classic Strike. He raced and raced for Liviakis and trainer Melkody Conlon three times in California, including his maiden score at Santa Anita on Oct. 16 last year and a runner-up finish in the Generous Stakes (gr. III) last November at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Campaigned in the 2011 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) after being purchased privately by Reddam, he finished seventh. He started 2012 with a fourth in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) and a third in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields before making the trek to Turfway.

The Pennsylvania Derby win increased Handsome Mike's earnings to $756,780 while building a 2-1-1 record from 10 starts.

For an Equibase chart, click here.

HANDSOME MIKE POWERED TO A PENNSYLVANIA DERBY UPSET

EclipsePADerby

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

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