The Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racingdrew a nearly full field of 11 3-year-olds, with five entering the race off wins. Los Alamitos Derby winner Reincarnate will attempt to give trainer Bob Baffert his fifth win in this race in the past nine years, including in 2022 with Taiba. Il Miracolo is another horse entering the race off a win, having captured the Smarty Jones Stakes last month on this track. Scotland won the Curlin Stakes at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Pennsylvania Derby in July before finishing sixth after leading for the first mile in the 1 ¼-mile, Grade 1 Travers Stakes last month. Saudi Crown has come close to winning a pair of stakes at this level, first when beaten by a nose in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes then when beaten by a nose in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by DK Horse. Similarly, Dreamlike came close when beaten by a head when third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino in April, before a win at this distance in July followed by a fifth of seven finish last month, neither in stakes races. West Coast Cowboy finished second in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby last month and is another who has proved competitive at the graded stakes level. Gilmore earned his best placing when second in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes in April at a shorter distance, before third-place finishes in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by TwinSpires and Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes Presented by Mohegan Sun. Gilmore won his most recent race last month at Saratoga Race Course. Daydreaming Boy ran his best race in a stakes this year in his most recent start when third, beaten 4 ¾ lengths by Il Miracolo in the Smarty Jones. Magic Tap enters the Pennsylvania Derby, his first try in a stakes, off a powerful win at 1 1/8 miles last month at Saratoga. Crupi enters the Pennsylvania Derby off a win in an allowance race but was seventh and ninth in his only two previous stakes efforts. Modern Era, a maiden with a 0-for-8 career record, rounds out the field.
Main win contenders:
Saudi Crown has yet to win a stakes race in the 3-year-old division this year, but not for lack of trying or for lack of ability. When stretched out to a mile for his third career start in the Dwyer Stakes in June, Saudi Crown ran very well, earning a 107 Equibase Speed Figure and battling gamely for the entire length of the stretch head and head with eventual winner Fort Bragg, coming up just a nose shy of victory. Stretching out to two turns for the first time in the Jim Dandy Stakes four weeks later, Saudi Crown was once again exceptionally game, because after leading from the start he battled to the finish line with favorite Forte, just losing in the final strides by the bob of a head. That effort, at the distance of the Pennsylvania Derby, earned an improved 109 speed figure. With a good inside post for this race, which should allow jockey Florent Geroux the ability to secure the lead and the rail from the start, Saudi Crown could take another step forward. Although there may be competition in the final yards once again, this time he could prevail to earn his first stakes win.
Scotland also ran the best race of his career at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Pennsylvania Derby. That effort came in the Curlin Stakes in July at Saratoga, where after leading from the start, Scotland was engaged by Il Miracolo, who drew even with Scotland for a half-mile as the pair battled head and head. During that time, Scotland would not give the lead away, eventually asserting himself to draw off by 3 ¼ lengths, earning a 107 Equibase Speed Figure in the process. A few weeks later, Scotland was flattered when Curlin runner-up Il Miracolo won the Smarty Jones Stakes in easy fashion. In his next start on Aug. 26, traveling the longer distance of 1 ¼ miles on a muddy track, Scotland faded to sixth after leading for the first mile of the race. Back at the distance of his Curlin Stakes win, and having shown he’s not just a need-the-lead type as he rallied from seventh to win one race before the Curlin, Scotland could rebound. If he does, he could run well enough to win this year’s Pennsylvania Derby.
Magic Tap was as impressive and as fast when winning at the distance of the Pennsylvania Derby last month at Saratoga as either Saudi Crown was in the Jim Dandy or as Scotland was in the Curlin. Although only an allowance race, Magic Tap continued his pattern of improvement, from a 93 speed figure three races back to 98, then to a 110 Equibase Speed Figure in that victory on Aug. 13. In that race, Magic Tap was close to the early pace while racing in second, about a half-length from the leader, but then the leader got away by 2 ½ lengths with an eighth of a mile to go. Closing tenaciously in the final yards, Magic Tap prevailed by a neck, so he, too, appears to be a formidable contender in this race.
About the probable favorite:
As to probable public betting choice Reincarnate, there are a number of factors which, in my opinion, suggest his probability to win is much lower than that suggested by his odds. First, he draws the outside post in this nearly full field. Combined with a running style that suggests he needs to lead from the start to win, given that all three of his victories have been earned that way, his outside post dictates jockey Juan Hernandez will have to use a lot of the colt’s speed to get good position before the first turn and avoid going wide and losing ground. This is a lot to ask because it appears very likely Saudi Crown will have the lead from the start as the two horses inside of him in the gate have no desire to lead early. With Magic Tap and Scotland also both possessing excellent tactical speed, this may cause Reincarnate to go too fast in the early stages to remain a strong factor at the finish line. Additionally, his two best efforts, when winning the Sham Stakes in January and when winning the Los Alamitos Derby last month, earned 103 and 101 Equibase Speed Figures, respectively. When compared with the 109 figure Saudi Crown earned in his most recent race, the 110 figure Magic Tap earned in his most recent race and the 107 figure Scotland earned one race before last, Reincarnate does not appear capable of improving to run as fast as is needed to win this race.
The rest of the field (with best Equibase Speed Figure): Crupi (95), Daydreaming Boy (104), Dreamlike (99), Gilmore (110), Il Miracolo (102), Modern Era (78), and West Coast Cowboy (98).