In recent years, the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby has emerged as a key test among 3-year-old males. Coupled with the $1 million Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies, it has also made Parx Racing a center of national attention for one Saturday with important Breeders’ Cup preps on the horizon.
With its seven-figure purse, the Pennsylvania Derby has not only attracted a quality field but has also emerged as an interesting betting affair worthy of some analysis to point out a few wagering trends.
Looking over the last 10 runnings of the mile-and-an-eighth Grade 1 stakes, there’s one statistic that truly sticks out. In nine of the last 10 years, the Pennsylvania Derby winner has exited a race at Saratoga. Lately the Spa angle has been a fast lane to the winner’s circle with the last five winners of the Parx stakes coming out of the Travers Stakes.
As for the other four Saratoga races, two were in allowance races or optional claimers while the Curlin Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes were also springboards for a Pennsylvania Derby winner.
The lone exception was Handsome Mike, who prevailed in the 2012 Pennsylvania Derby after running in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on turf.
Looking over the field for Saturday’s race, the Saratoga horses are Hofburg (Curlin), King Zachary (Travers), Trigger Warning (Travers), and Bravazo (Travers).
After that, early speed has been a key factor with four front-running winners who led after the opening half-mile. Add in a winner who was second after that initial half-mile and 50 percent of the last 10 winners were either first or second.
From a betting standpoint, it’s been a little better than average for favorites. In the 10 years, four favorites have prevailed. Three others paid between $9 and $11.40. The three longshots were Connect at 10-1 in 2016, Handsome Mike at 19-1 and Anak Nakal at 16-1.
Among the trainers, Bob Baffert has won two of the last four editions with West Coast last year and Bayern in 2014. Baffert will send out the 5-2 favorite on Saturday in McKinzie, which bodes well for that angle, but his 3-year-old is not coming off a race at Saratoga. In fact, McKinzie hasn’t raced since March 10, and the longest layoff in the last 10 years was less than two months.
McKinzie does have nice early speed that should help his cause in a race that once again promises to be an intriguing wagering proposition.