The Grade 2 $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby features the two biggest names from the Triple Crown trail September 24 at Parx as a field of 12 gathers in one of the most intriguing betting races of the year.
Turf and Dirt Stakes at Parx Saturday
A pair of minor stakes races for the boys on turf and the girls on the dirt highlight Saturday’s 10-race card at Parx Racing, and both have drawn large fields that present some good wagering opportunities. First up will be the $75,000 First Responder Stakes for three-year-olds and up covering 1 1/16 miles on the grass, where a field of 11 have been entered, including the entry of Pennsylvania-breds Nibriu’s Return and Achilles Quest, who, despite their entry status, are morning line longshots at 20-1.
Exclusive Strike likely back where he belongs
Heading the field at 5-2 is Exclusive Strike, who looked good running third at 22-1 in the Grade I Man O’ War at Belmont two starts back – stepping right up from AOC company - but looked to come thudding back to earth last time out in the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational, finishing an un-threatening ninth. Not to be counted out is Derby Kitten, a graded-stakes winner and Kentucky Derby runner two years ago, who has been in the money in five of his last six, including a win last time in the Cliff Guilliams Handicap on the turf at Ellis Park.
Multiple winners in Cornucopia field
Following the First Responder will be the $75,000 Cornucopia Stakes for fillies and mares three-years-old and up racing six furlongs on dirt. The early favorite is Winning Image (5-2) who couldn’t handle Grade II company in the Presque Isle Masters, finishing ninth, but who prior to that had reeled off four straight minor stakes triumphs. She’ll have to deal with She’s Ordained (9-2) who has only one previous stakes effort in 26 lifetime, but who has three wins at Parx this year and is 10-for-11 in 2013. In with a shot is Geeky Gorgeous (4-1) winner of two straight at this level.
The $1 million Cotillion Stakes September 24 at Parx features a true clash of the titans as the six-horse field is headlined by the undefeated, five-time grade 1 winner Songbird who figures to face the most stern challenge of her career.
In a completely wide open renewal of the Presque Isle Mile September 18 at Presque Isle Downs, 13 runners including the also-eligible will contest the eight furlong trip over synthetic footing.
Champion Songbird is set to make her much-anticipated return to the races in the $200,000 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Grade 2 event will be run at a mile and a sixteenth and has attracted a field of seven.