BENSALEM, Pa. – The rookie of the Pennsylvania Derby, experience wise, is Godolphin Racing’s Speaker’s Corner.
When the son of Street Sense enters the starting gate for the Grade 1, $1 million race, it will be just the fourth start for Speaker’s Corner and second this year. All of the eight other runners have more race day experience.
Of the other Derby runners, two of them – I Am Redeemed and Americanrevolution – will be making the Pennsylvania Derby their fifth career start.
The lack of seasoning might be cause for concern to those who like Speaker’s Corner, but that anxiety should dissipate when you see who is training him. Hall of Famer Bill Mott is not sending Speaker’s Corner to Parx because he wants to load up on Philly Cheese Steaks.
Speaker’s Corner’s highly anticipated return to the races came Aug. 14 at Saratoga in an allowance, a seven-furlong race he won easily by 5 ¼ lengths.
“It was everything we expected and a little bit more,” Mott said. “I was happy with it, for sure. I wasn’t sure if the seven-eighths would be enough ground for him. I thought they would run him off his feet a little bit early in the race.”
That didn’t happen. The talented the colt showed as a 2-year-old was still there despite a long layoff. He broke his maiden in his second start last October at Belmont and some of the horses he beat that day included Caddo River, Greatest Honour, Miles D and Pennsylvania Derby rival Bourbonic.
After that, an ankle injury put him on the equine disabled list for a while and a spring-time virus that went through Mott’s barn delayed his return even longer.
It was worth the wait. Mott is asking him to take a gigantic step forward as he tries graded stakes company for the first time.
“We have always felt we belonged with this group,” Mott said. “We have the one race under our belt and it’s working out well.”
Speaker’s Corner, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, is 12-1 on the Derby morning line.
Mott will also saddle Juddmonte’s Obligatory in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion. The daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin finished fifth in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga in her last start on Aug. 7.
“The big thing about her is that it is a two-turn test,” Mott said about the 1 1/16-mile Cotillion.
“We know she’s quite effective at seven-eighths and a flat mile at one turn. This is a bit of a fact-finding mission for us to figure out if the configuration of the race is going to suit her. We’ll see.”
Ortiz also has the mount on Obligatory, who is 10-1 on the Cotillion morning line.
Parx Press Office
Photo: Photo of Parx Race Track by Eric Kalet