BENSALEM, Pa.— Nominations are set for the Grade 1, $1 million betPARX Pennsylvania Derby with as many as 28 3-year-olds under consideration for the 42nd renewal of the 1 1/8-mile event Saturday, Sept. 24 at Parx Racing.
The betPARX Pennsylvania Derby anchors a 10-stakes program that also co-features the Grade 1, $ million Cotillion for 3-year-old filles at 1 1/16 miles.
Zedan Racing Stable’s Taiba could make the cross-country trek from his Southern California base for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert. The Gun Runner colt broke his maiden by 7 1/2 lengths at first asking March 5 at Santa Anita Park before returning a little more than a month later to capture the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. Taiba joins Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and Cyberknife as Grade 1 winners nominated to the Pennsylvania Derby.
Taiba finished 12th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby May 7, then was given a bit of a refreshening and returned to miss by a head to Cyberknife in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth. Taiba has turned in bullet works in his breezes for his fifth career start.
“He has been training well,” Baffert said. “I thought his Haskell was really strong and he got beat by a nice horse (Cyberknife). He is doing well right now. He has been talented since Day 1, was so impressive when he broke his maiden. And the Santa Anita was very impressive. The Derby, he got caught up in all those horses, a real cavalry charge. Then he was freshened up and we ran him in the Haskell. He is happy and healthy.”
Rhetoric under Florent Geroux gave a game run in an AOC at Del Mar August 20 missing second by a neck.
The lightly raced Rhetoric would make his stakes debut in the Pennsylvania Derby after sprinting in his first three starts for Baffert. The Quality Road colt broke his maiden by 6 lengths at Los Alamitos to start his 3-year-old year then debuted against allowance foes and placed fifth before stretching out to a route to finish third at Del Mar.
Baffert has enjoyed success at Parx, winning the Pennsylvania Derby three times beginning with Bayern, who owns the track record in the race by stopping the teletimer in 1:46.96 for the 9-furlong trip in 2014. Bayern went on to win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in his next start to close out the year. Baffert won back-to-back installments with West Coast in 2017 and McKinzie in 2018.
“It has become such an important race,” Baffert said. “They put up $1 million and the timing is good for the Breeders’ Cup. And we have had some success there. Our horses run well there.”
Trainer Brad Cox, fresh off his being awarded the 2021 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer, nominated four runners in search of his first Pennsylvania Derby victory.
Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port could make his second Grade 1 start after his seventh in the Kentucky Derby. The Pioneerof the Nile colt returned from the Derby and won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby June 25 then shipped up to Saratoga Race Course to finish third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy July 30.
“I talked it over with John (Fort of Peachtree Stable) and we decided we wanted to give himsome time after the Jim Dandy,” Cox said. “He ran well, we gave him a shot.”
Gary and Mary West’s Best Actor is one of four nominees to have a victory over the course, that coming in the Grade 3 $300,000 Smarty Jones Aug. 23. The Flatter colt drew off to win by 5 3/4 lengths over fellow nominees Kissalot and Creative Minister after his runner up performance to Actuator in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby on July 9. The Kentucky-bred owns strong victories in his first two starts before his first graded stakes try in the Indiana Derby and could provide Cox with a strong contender if he runs.
Cox also nominated Gold Square’s Cyberknife, who looks to return to his winning ways after his three-race win streak came to an end with a runner-up finish to Epicenter in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes Aug. 27. The Gun Runner colt won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes in July at Monmouth Park.
Flurry Racing Stables Interstatedaydream, one of three fillies to be nominated against the boys, brings more experience within the Cox-trained pair off her second to Green Up in the $150,000 Cathryn Sophia Stakes Aug. 23 at Parx. The Ontario-bred posted back-to-back victories in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and Grade 3 Indiana Oaks prior to the Cathryn Sophia.
Interstatedaydream winning the 2022 Black-Eyed Susan by 1 1/4 lengths at Pimlico Race Course on Preakness Weekend.
Cox and his team are in search of their first Grade 1 victory at Parx after they made their debut with a fourth in last year’s running with Fulsome. Cox’s superstar Monomoy Girl crossed the finish first in the 2018 Cotillion but was disqualified for interference in the stretch.
“It’s great hospitality at Parx,” Cox said. “They really take care of you and it’s a great day of racing. We’ve had luck there in the past. … We are looking forward to going back there.”
Trainer Eric Reed said there is an “outside chance” that Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike could make an appearance in the Pennsylvania Derby. The Kentucky-bred son of Keen Ice won the first leg of the Triple Crown at odds of 80-1 after his closing kick to the inside of Epicenter and Zendon carried him and his supporters to a historic win. Owned by Red TR Racing, Rich Strike finished sixth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes before a fourth in the Grade 1 Travers.
“It’s being considered but it is close between starts and the travel from Saratoga to Kentucky and then to Pennsylvania is a concern,” Reed said. “That’s a lot of miles for Richie. (Owner) Rick Dawson and I are discussing what’s next, but I haven’t made any decisions yet.”
Others nominated to the Pennsylvania Derby are West Point Thoroughbreds and Joseph E. Besecker’s B Dawk, trained by Doug O’Neill; Clear Stars Stable, Mitre Box Stable and Richard Schosberg’s Bossmakinbossmoves (Rick Schosberg); Fern Circle Stable, Back Racing LLC and Magdelena Racing’s Creative Minister (Ken McPeek); Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones Ethereal Road (D. Wayne Lukas); Team Valor International’s Green Up (Todd Pletcher); Over The Moon Racing Stable LLC’s He’ssosubtle (Louis Linder Jr.); Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Howling Time (Dale Romans)’ Mr. Ree Stable and Gary Matthew’s Icy Storm (Felix-Flores Coba); Dailey Double Racing’s Kissalot (Saffie Joseph Jr.); Calroli Racing Stable, Magic Stables and Imaginary Stable’s Logico (Antonio Sano); LC Racing, Cash Is King, and Gary Barber’s Morning Matcha (Robert E. Reid); JKX Racing’s Naval Aviator (Juan Carlos Guerrero); Gary Barber’s Perfect Flight (Peter Miller); Whisper Hill Farm’s Saint Tapit (Todd Pletcher); Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification (Antonio Sano); WinStar Farm, Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking (Saffie Joseph Jr.); Trin Brook Stable’s Supreme Being (Uriah St. Lewis); CMNWLTH and Siena Farm’s We the People (Rodolphe Brisset); September Farm, Union Park Thoroughbreds, Black Fern, Michael and Tammy Motley’s Western River (Rodolphe Brisset). C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio (Saffie Joseph Jr.); and Jeff Drown’s Zandon (Chad Brown).
The betPARX Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Day card also includes the Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes; Grade 3, $300,000 Turf Monster Stakes; Grade 3, $200,000 Greenwood Cup Stakes; $200,000 Parx Dirt Mile Stakes; $200,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap; $200,000 Plum Pretty Stakes; $200,000 Prince Lucky Stakes; and $200,000 Imply Stakes. First post Saturday, Sept. 24 is 12:05 p.m. ET.
By Anthony Affrunti and Tim Wilkin
Main Photo: Taiba in a Del Mar work. Photo by Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire