The Pennsylvania Derby lost some of its luster when it was announced that Maximum Security had a colon ailment and would not be running in the Grade 1 stakes. Yet as much as the 1 1/8-mile stakes lost its marquee starter in the horse who was disqualified from first to 17th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the absence of the initial morning-line favorite leaves a wide-open race without an obvious front-runner with a bull’s-eye on his back. Even though there are only six starters, it should be an interesting betting affair with little separating the top three betting choices.
1. Math Wizard (6-1): A wise $25,000 claim by trainer Saffie A. Joseph Jr. who has turned into a graded-stakes-placed runner. Was no factor when sixth at 9-2 odds last time out against the victorious Mr. Money in the West Virginia Derby, but was much more competitive against him in the Indiana Derby, where he finished only four lengths behind him. He was also second in the Ohio Derby behind Owendale, who was third in the Preakness. Could be a major factor if the pace gets overly contentious.
JOCKEY: Edgard Zayas TRAINER: Saffie A. Joseph Jr.
2. Improbable (8-5): He came into the year as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and went off as the 4-1 favorite in the run for the roses despite finishing second in his two preps. He was moved up to fourth via disqualification in the Kentucky Derby and then finished sixth in the Preakness Stakes, again as the 5-2 favorite. A victory in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar while equipped with blinkers finally put him in the winner’s circle in 2019 and perhaps he’s ready to reclaim a spot among the leaders of the 3-year-old division. A victory would give trainer Bob Baffert his third straight win in this Grade 1 stakes.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith TRAINER: Bob Baffert
3. Shanghai Superfly (30-1): Those morning-line odds actually seem ridiculously low on an outclassed maiden with an 0-for-8 record who is taking on winners for the first time.
JOCKEY: Frankie Pennington TRAINER: Marcos Zulueta
4. War of Will (4-1): It’s been a spotty year for him, but when he’s at his best, he ranks among the very best in the division as evidenced by his wins in the Preakness and Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford. He’s coming off a fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes, which followed a ninth in the Belmont Stakes, but his sharp recent workouts indicate he may ready for another top effort.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione TRAINER: Mark Casse
5. Spun to Run (8-1): He the only starter with experience on the Parx main track and that’s a big factor for a surface that some horses have trouble handling. In fact, he has three wins at Parx, capped by a victory in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes. Being a horse for the course, he could sneak into the picture at a square price.
JOCKEY: Paco Lopez TRAINER: Juan Carlos Guerrero
6. Mr. Money (2-1): He gets tested for class here after four straight Grade 3 wins in the last four months. He’s won those races by a combined margin of 20 ¼ lengths and his speed figures indicate he will be a major factor here. He should be on or near the lead from the outside post and how demanding the pace turns out to be should play a major role in the outcome.
JOCKEY: Gabriel Saez TRAINER: Bret Calhoun
THE PICK: War of Will
LIVE LONGSHOT: Spun to Run