Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Pennsylvania Derby day at Parx has arrived! This year’s renewal features a field of ten, including Baffert star McKinzie, West Virginia Derby winner Mr. Freeze, and the much-hyped Hofburg. In fact, eight out of the ten horses in the race have won a stakes races this year. Not only that, there’s the Cotillion Stakes, featuring a showdown between Monomoy Girl and Wonder Gadot. In fact, there’s five stakes races on the 13-race program, which kicks off at 12:25 PM EDT.
We’re happy to have Brian Leckie (@bleck1022) providing free picks & analysis of all the action today! Brian was our Monmouth handicapper over the summer, and we’re happy to have him covering Parx today.
Take it away, Brian! Good luck to everyone playing along!
#5 Fara’s Kid is in great form riding a two-game win streak while stepping slightly up in class and stretching out to two turns. That shouldn’t be much of an issue as the numbers fit lately and he’s 4 of 5 in the exacta at the distance. Bowman, who has established a good rapport with this horse, remains aboard.
#12 Terry’s Charm is the one to beat. In recent years, Parx’s biggest day has had both a heavy speed bias and a dead rail. Terry’s Charm gets to be the first to test out any bias while being sent toward the lead from the outside. He has very good finishing ability and comes off of two 5-length wins against allowance and optional claiming company that would win this race. But I have a couple of reservations. He will likely encounter ground loss from the far outside and he was claimed from Jorge Navarro last out (though the stats aren’t bad at all with this move, I still don’t want to play that angle on top). In addition, Esquivel and Farro haven’t done well teaming up over the last two months. Still, on pace and ability, you can’t count this horse out.
#8 Chunnel is the first of four Navarro horses entered on the card. I don’t envision a scorching early pace, but if the top two choices soften each other up front, Chunnel should get first run sitting right off of them. He’s got enough class to compete with these as well, plus the bullet work shows he’s ready for business.
#8 Gotham Gala had her coming out party switching from turf to dirt last time, exploding to a 12 length maiden victory while backing it up with a solid speed figure. This isn’t a strong allowance field, so she’s a dangerous candidate to repeat.
#3 Afleet Tizzy just missed by a neck last time at a similar level where the timer stopped in 1:11 3/5 for 6 furlongs. Aside from a disappointing 6th place finish two back, the horse hasn’t been out of the trifecta in her last ten starts. The horse has been an exacta machine lately, and has not been out of the money with Frankie Pennington riding. On recent class, this is the best horse in the field. But note that her three lifetime wins have all come against state bred company. I would be leery of taking too short a price on top.
#2 Mia Bella Rossa has speed figures that are on par with Afleet Tizzy, and actually ran far behind that one last time out, in an inexplicable performance similar to the one Afleet Tizzy had two races back. Her form has been good otherwise, and does own a win against tough starter allowance company. She will need an improved performance from her last two efforts to threaten the top two.
#10 Analyze the Odds is coming off of competitive efforts in NY bred stakes races, which are tougher than one might think. Servis magic administered at Parx might be just what this horse needs.
#8 Prendimi has been competing primarily in Jersey bred races, but he gave Chunnel (who runs in today’s first race) all he could handle in the Charles Hesse III at Monmouth last out. If Chunnel runs well, you have to consider Prendimi, who will also have a pace advantage in this field. But he needs to run back to his last effort to compete for the top spots, as his prior efforts are a cut below these.
#1 Aqwaam faces winners for the first time after breaking his maiden in a key race at Monmouth last month. Both the second and third-place finishers from that race won next out, including Graham’s Way, who broke dead last then rushed up through the field toward the lead before drawing away easily by 6 lengths. Irad Ortiz also jumps off the top choice to land here, though this horse being a Chad Brown trainee may have something to do with it.
#7 Harangue exits a tough starter allowance at Saratoga. The second place finisher also took a 50k starter allowance next out at Belmont. The numbers are certainly competitive. The trainer also has a 60% ITM rate with a 45-90 day layoff.
#2 Singing Sarah has competed well in allowance company- both state bred and open- and hasn’t finished out of the exacta in five starts. She might be the midpack closer who benefits most from a potential hot pace up front.
#7 Catoria is strictly the one to beat. She’s run by far the fastest figures in the field and lays over these horses on class. But she has not yet shown an ability to rate off of a leader, and there are horses in here who have run faster fractions early on. She should still win this race, but she will not get a favorable pace scenario to do so.
#6 Gangbusters is a steadily improving horse that would also benefit from a fast early pace. She was beating up on claimers before stepping up to run second in a starter allowance last time out. Alfredo Velazquez has an astounding 35% win rate second off the claim and is also 4 for 5 ITM teaming up with Angel Arroyo. This one could really outrun her odds if she can handle another step up in class.
#9 Katie’s Reward found herself on the lead through fractions of 45 3/5 and 1:10 3/5 in her last two races, which is faster than anyone else in the field has run lately, and those came at slightly longer distances. But while she favorably cuts back to six furlongs, she will have to handle a sharp step up in class from beaten claimers, along with other company on the front end. But her finishing ability combined with her early foot could still land her in the tri or super.
#4 Sparticle ran a great race winning two back at 6.5 furlongs before faltering next out going another 1/16 of a mile in a race where closers had a distinct advantage. A cutback to 6 furlongs should be in his favor, and a bullet work on September 14th shows he’s ready to go. He’s also shown an ability to rate from behind. If he runs to that effort two back, look out.
#7 Smokin Nitro looks pretty strong on paper having run out of the exacta only once in 7 career starts, and that came in a state bred stakes. He trounced the competition by open lengths in each of his four wins. Ignore the effort last time as that came in a turf sprint, and he still ran second. He also digs down and fights when challenged. He’s also a horse for course, with 4 wins and a second from 5 starts at Parx. The one to beat.
#11 Cinderela El Crome ran second to the top choice two back before exploding to a big speed figure in the victory last time. It would be tough to duplicate that effort once again, while now facing n2X company. It’s a good sign that Esquivel stays aboard, though. With 4 seconds from 8 starts at Parx and steadily improving form, this horse should give a very good account of himself. But he has had a penchant for seconditis in the past, and when you consider how big an effort he ran last time, I’m leery of taking this horse on top.
#1 Long May You Run is still in good form at age 7. He won at this level last time out back in May, and has gotten some time off since. He’s rattled off two bullet works in preparation for this, though they came 20 days apart. Anthony Salgado, who was aboard for that win, jumps off another contender to land here. Long May You Run will most likely be a part of the early pace. I’m just concerned about his chances of firing a top effort off the layoff.
#4 Desert Spring goes out for the Mike Stidham barn, which was firing away with winning 2YOs at the recently concluded Monmouth Park meet. The dam has also thrown a 2YO winner. The workouts are quite sharp leading up to the debut. The presence of Albin Jiminez is also a good sign. Many reasons to like this horse, oh and did I mention he’s owned by Godolphin?
#10 Five Star General is owned by the same partnership as Justify. Distorted Humor progeny have a high 16% win rate first time out. Arnaud Delacour has also had recent success shipping into Parx. Plus, you get Jose Ortiz aboard.
#7 Black Light just ran 11 days ago in a MSW at Parx where he improved off his debut just 16 days prior, and with a workout in between. Uriah St. Lewis is certainly employing unorthodox training techniques with this horse, but they seem to be working so far. Additional improvement should put him in the mix in a group with some salty first time starters.
Race 7- Alphabet Soup S.
#6 Fast and Accurate is the safe selection in here. He’s the only horse that has been competitive against stakes company over turf in recent form. His second placed finish in the Miesque’s Approval at Gulfstream in April is the benchmark for the rest of the field. He has also been working regularly every seven days in preparation for the return off the layoff, including a bullet work on September 15th on top of this race. He should be ready to fire.
#5 Missin the Big Dog is 2 for 2 over turf, wiring the field both times. He takes a step up into stakes company today, but many of these have either never run on turf before or have not been competitive over the surface. Missin the Big Dog has a proven affinity for the Parx turf, which should get him far in this race. He just faces a foe that is too classy.
#7 Taxable Goods is another who has discovered an affinity for turf, running a big effort last time against Maryland-sired horses at Laurel. An improvement off that effort would compete with the second choice for the exacta.
#10 Bern’ James Bern has some good back class running over turf. But he hasn’t won in a long time, and couldn’t beat claiming company over turf. He’s a horse that seems content to collect checks but not seal the deal. And I think that will be his fate today against a proven commodity and two horses who are still improving over turf.
Race 8- PA Derby Champion S.
#6 Aztec Sense is a perfect 5 for 5 at Parx, a bonafide horse for course! Two of those wins have come against stakes company. He comes into this on a six-race winning streak. And he’s got a legitimate chance to go for seven over a vulnerable favorite. Did I mention the Navarro factor? Look for him to test Collected’s class near the front end.
Speaking of #7 Collected, he is the best horse in the field, plain and simple. Sure, the layoff is concerning having not run since a poor effort in the Pegasus World Cup. But he’s still competed at THE highest class level in American racing. Not that this field is bad by any means, but a poor showing should signal immediate retirement. However, coming off of such a long layoff and dealing with a sharp Aztec Sense near the front end won’t make things easy for him in his first race back. The rest of the field is at a distinct pace disadvantage though, so these two should dictate.
#3 Zanotti and #4 Name Changer are the best of the rest. These two battled it out in the Monmouth Cup, both earning big figures in that race. They also each have excellent records over the Parx surface. It’s very hard to separate both of them, so you almost have to use them both. Name Changer had Zanotti measured every step of the way in the Monmouth Cup, but a bounce could be in store for him in this spot, while Zanotti got that out of the way in the Woodward (where he was completely overmatched).
Race 9- G3 Gallant Bob S.
#9 Whereshetoldmetogo is going to fly under the radar with some other prominent names entered. This horse has run some pretty darn fast races lately, and comes into this on a three-race winning streak. He’s capable of running 1:08 3/5, and that came at Delaware Park, usually a pretty deep surface. This horse will be running late, it’s just a matter of the leaders tiring and whether or not a speed bias exists. Do not leave this horse off of your tickets.
#4 Engage finally returns to the 6 furlong distance after falling short several times at or around 7 furlongs. He has consistently run some of the best speed figures in the field at or above this class level. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be in the mix at the end, especially getting away from Promises Fulfilled and being at an advantage over some of his other rivals in here at the shorter distance. Remember, he was still in second at the furlong pole in the Jerkens.
#7 War Giant is the speedball of the field, but what else would you expect from a Navarro sprinter? He has steadily improved with each start this year, jumping 7 points each time on the Beyer scale. If he can comfortably clear Forced to his inside using sheer speed, he could take this field the whole way. But any prolonged pace pressure from that rival could doom his chances, and I think Prado has no choice but to send from the inside. Therefore, I think War Giant could be up against it from a pace perspective while also facing better.
Race 10- G1 Cotillion S.
What an exciting rematch of the Kentucky Oaks top three! And that’s likely what the finishing result will be once again. #2 Monomoy Girl simply looks too good for this field on paper. She’s riding a five-race winning streak, and her only career loss was by a neck. There isn’t a lot of other early speed in here besides Jump Ruler to her outside, and Monomoy Girl could elect to sit off that one if needed. The only concern I have is if the rail is dead like last year.
I was hoping that the numbers would improve for #4 Wonder Gadot once they added blinkers, but the reality is they haven’t. She’s a wonderful filly, and I’m a big fan. But unless she runs back to that effort in Kentucky, she won’t have a chance at beating Monomoy Girl (unless the rail is dead and Geroux keeps MG on it). But I’ll be rooting for her!
#7 Midnight Bisou is 3 for 3 at the 1 1/16 distance. But she just hasn’t improved enough to threaten the top spot. She was clearly second best to Monomoy Girl in the Coaching Club and was a soundly beaten third in the Oaks despite getting a wide trip into the stretch. She will run the same race she always does, except the margin will probably be closer at her preferred distance.
Race 11- G1 Pennsylvania Derby
#7 Mr Freeze ran an eye-opening race in the West Virginia Derby, taking a massive jump on the speed figure scale. That would lead some to believe a bounce is coming. But on the sheets, his numbers are much closer together. And a layoff would mitigate the effects of any forthcoming bounce. He’s a pretty versatile horse as well. I think he’s going to be dangerous here.
#3 Instilled Regard lands here for one reason only- the Chad Brown effect. This horse was good enough under Hollendorfer, but Brown works wonders- just look at Gronkowski in the Belmont. The works indicate that Chad has been pointing for this race since the horse arrived in the barn. Jose Ortiz gets the call. Instilled Regard will certainly be the right price. Time to take a shot!
#10 Bravazo will do what he always does- run the same exact race in a top-notch 3yo G1 to finish in the tri and come up short. I think 1 1/8 is just a tad too short for him as well. Of the main contenders, he is the one that you can have the most confidence in to hit the board.
I have some concerns about #8 McKinzie. I think he’s going to get softened up on the front end by Trigger Warning. He hasn’t run since the San Felipe in March, going head and head with Bolt d’Oro who has been a mess since. So many of these 3yos have gone through tangible improvement while McKinzie still remains an unknown from his brilliance earlier in the year. You never want to take a short price on a horse with so many questions. But when challenged, he won’t go down without a fight. That should keep him in the mix at least.
#3 Quality Asset won his last start by 13 lengths against 12.5 claimers at the n4L condition. Since he’s pretty much out of conditions, allowance company is the next level. The good news is, this is a pretty darn weak field for an allowance race. Plus, I think the two speeds to his inside are going to soften things up for his closing kick.
#1 San Elijo ran a competitive race last time in an allowance at Parx, earning a big BRIS figure. Aside from a poor showing in an OC50k at Fair Grounds, the horse hasn’t disgraced himself at all in his other starts. He even has a bullet work since his vet scratch on Sep 1 (Saratoga). I’ll trust that Stidham knows what he’s doing here.
#7 Cause I’m Alex has been competitive against NY breds at Saratoga and moves into open allowance company, which is a bit of a step up. His speed figures fit quite well with this bunch. But from a pace standpoint I prefer the other two.
#10 Scherzo has a couple of wins against starter allowance company at Parx. Ignore that last effort as it came over turf, and you see a horse that has been on a pretty good roll lately. But from a speed figure standpoint he’s just a slight cut below.
#3 D.S. Boyd earned a higher Beyer than the ML favorite in their respective last starts. But what’s even more telling is the company lines. D.S. Boyd finished second last out in a key race where the first place finisher repeated at the same 7500 level, and the third place finisher returned to win at the 12500 level, beating today’s ML fave in the process. Interesting, isn’t it?
#2 Gran Fortress drops from the 12500 level down to here, although that alone should not make him the ML fave given what I just told you. He also has 4 seconds and zero wins from 7 starts over the Parx dirt. The horse certainly has an issue with seconditis despite breaking his maiden three starts back. Gran Fortress is very likely to finish in the money, and I wouldn’t leave him off your multirace tickets, but I probably wouldn’t take him on top at a short price.
#9 Distinctive Ride is another horse taking a drop in class that also has seconditis. But there is a positive stat with this horse- Mychel Sanchez and Richard Vega are 2 for 2 together teaming up over the last two months with a positive ROI. If that’s a stat that encourages you to put him on top, then by all means go ahead.
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