Saudi Crown without a speck of mud literally floats above the sloppy track on his way to victory in the Pennsylvania Derby. (Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO)
Ceiling Crusher Takes G1 Cotillion Honors
PARX PA Derby Day Update Part 1
The Gallant Bob — Damon’s Mound
The Parx Dirt Mile — Nimitz Class
The Alphabet Soup — King Kumbalay
By Maribeth Kalinich (with Equibase notes)
No one put on a better card in 2023 than Parx Racing did on Saturday with a 14-race card that included 10, yes, count ‘em, 10 stakes, two future stars races and closing with a $100,000 Allowance. Total purses worth $3.76 million! It was Pennsylvania Derby Day folks, and even heavy rain didn’t stop the fierce racing.
Headlined by the $1 million Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby and $1 million Grade 1 Cotillion the day kicked off with a $100,000 Future Stars MSW for 2-year-olds followed by the first stakes of the day, the $150,000 Prince Lucky Stakes (Black Type).
The $150,000 Imply Stakes (Black Type) followed with a $60,000 starter allowance at seven furlongs.
Race 5 was a six furlong $100,000 MSW Future Stars for 2-year-old fillies after which the string of eight stakes began with the $100,000 Plum Pretty (Black Type).
The Grade 3 $200,000 Greenwood a mile and a half was up next (pun intended) followed by the Grade 3 $250,000 Turf Monster five furlongs sprint that despite a sloppy day, was still run on what was referred to as a “yielding” turf course.
The one and one sixteenths mile $100,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap (Black Type) was originally scheduled on the turf but put on the main track.
Heavy hitters were up next for a hearty prize in the $300,000 Parx Dirt Mile (Listed). Setting up the grand slam was the $400,000 Grade 2 Gallant Bob six-furlong sprint.
Hitting it out of the park were the Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies at one and one sixteenths miles and the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-old colts/geldings at one and one eighth miles. Both with million-dollar purses.
Fans were treated with a six-furlong sprint closing the card.
Race 13 – The Pennsylvania Derby
FMQ Stables’ Saudi Crown looked as if he had been floating above the extremely sloppy track in Bensalem, Pennsylvania as he sailed wire-to-wire clean as a whistle to win the Grade 1 $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.
Under Florent Geroux Saudi Crown broke alertly and was sent right to the front, rated on clear lead and repelled challenges. The Brad Cox trainee widened again in midstretch and held on with determination. Dreamlike far back early inside, angled wide advancing on the final turn then made a gradual gain in the final furlong.
Il Miracolo chased wide, made a menacing bid into the far turn then flattened out late. Magic Tap settled close up inside, remained within range inside then weakened late.
Crupi squeezed back early, advanced inside, steadied in midstretch and weakened. Reincarnate hustled just off the pace four wide, bid at the three eighths pole and lacked a further response. Gilmore edged close near the inside after half a mile then faltered. Daydreaming Boy made a menacing wide run on the final turn then gave way.
West Coast Cowboy chased just off the pace between rivals then stopped after half a mile. Scotland prompted the pace between foes in the two path and stopped at the three eighths pole. Modern Era lagged far behind throughout losing contact with his field.
A claim of foul by the Tyler Gaffalione aboard Magic Tap against Michael Sanchez aboard Il Miracolo for interference in the stretch was dismissed.
Crupi, Reincarnate, Gilmoe, Daydreaming Boy, West Coast Cowboy, Scotland and Modern Era complete the order of finish.
Fractions were 23.16, 47.27, 1:12.17 and 1:37.99 with a final time of 1:50.62. The track record was set by Bayern at 1:46.96 on September 20, 2014.
Saudi Crown $4.20, 3.00 and 2.60. Dreamlike $7.00 and 4.80 with Il Miracolo paying $7.60.
Saudi Crown, unraced as a 2-year-old, now has three wins in five starts with two second places. With the PA Derby win his earnings increased to $817,085.
After breaking his maiden at Keeneland at six furlongs by 4-3/4 lengths on April 16 with an Equibase Speed Figure (ESF) of 109, Saudi Crown followed up with a win in a six and a half furlongs allowance May 21 by 1-3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs and was awarded an ESF of 99 for that effort.
He stepped up in class and distance in the Grade 3 Dwyer at Belmont Park at one mile. He missed the win by a nose to Fort Bragg but still garnered an ESF OF 107. He was second, again, by a nose in the mile and one eighth Jim Dandy behind Forte at Saratoga July 29 with an ESF of 109.
The flashy gray earned a 112 ESF for his confident performance in the PA Derby.
The gray colt was bred in Kentucky by CHC, Inc. and is by Always Dreaming out of Tapit mare New Narration.
He was first purchased by Salde Callaghan at the Keeneland 2021 January Mixed sale for $45,000 and then purchased by Faisal Mohammed Alqahtani at the Ocala April 2022 Two-Year-Olds in training Sale for $240,000.
Race 12 – The Cotillion
In from California for trainer Doug O’Neill, Ceiling Crusher held on in the muck by half a length over Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous to win the Grade 1 $1 million Cotillion.
Leading from the start and setting an opening quarter of 23.31 under Edwin Maldonado, Ceiling Crusher held a measured lead to the stretch, was put to urging, shook loose nearing midstretch and maintained advantage through the final furlong.
Pretty Mischievous settled well off the pace between foes, bid closer on the final turn and offered a determined late gain. Occult trailed for half a mile, bid inside onto the far turn, swung very wide in the stretch and closed willingly.
The popular Hoosier Philly rated off the pace three wide, bid on the final turn then weakened in the stretch. Defining Purpose raced four wide in striking range then flattened out in the stretch. Foggy Night moved closer inside before half a mile then had no further response. Just Katherine chased wide throughout and gave way on the final turn.
Majestic Creed raced in closest pursuit of the winner to the far turn then stopped. Imonra settled three wide between rivals off the pace and faltered.
Ceiling Crusher paid $8.60, 4.40 and 3.20. Pretty Mischievous rewarded players with $3.00 and 2.20 for second and Occult offered $3.00 for third.
Hoosier Philly, Defining Purpose, Foggy Night, Just Katherine, Majestic Creed and Imonra complete the order of finish.
Fractions were 47.64, 1:12.98 and 1:39.16 with a final time of 1:45.69. The track record was set by Havre de Grace at 1:40.93 on October 2, 2010.
Winning six of her seven starts, Ceiling Crusher won her debut at Santa Anita June 3, 2022, and then had a layoff until winning an allowance there January 29, 2023.
Three months later she would step up to stakes company in the Evening Jewel earning Black Type followed by a win in the Melair at Santa Anita in May and then a third in the Fleet Treat at Del Mar in July.
Stepping up to graded stakes company Ceiling Crusher shattered the Grade 3 Torey Pines by six lengths after leading throughout the race and setting an opening quarter of 22.14. She earned an ESF of 104.
With the win in the Cotillion Ceiling Crusher improved her career earnings to $938,400.
Ceiling Crusher, by Mr. Big, was bred in Kentucky by Harris Farms and is out of the Indian Charlie mare Palisadesprincess.
The 3-year-old bay is owned by Wonderland Racing Stables, LLC, Todd Cady, Tim Kasparoff and Ty Leatherman.
First selling for $22,000 at the August 2021 CTBA California Yearling Sale to Tari Brockleback, Ceiling Crusher then RNA’d at the Fasig-Tipton 2022 California Yearling Sale at $115,000.
Race 11 – The Gallant Bob
The track might have been soupy, but Parx did a good job sealing it because speed was obvious on the day as Cliff and Michele Love’s homebred Damon’s Mound under Junior Alvarado took it to the max in the Gallant Bob.
With Ninetypercentmaddie under Paco Lopez breaking to the lead and Sir Lancelot under Hall of Famer John Velazquez setting a zippy 21.98 first quarter, Damon’s Mound, well placed behind the dueling leaders, angled out and bid three wide on the turn, taking over the lead at the half and holding. The Michelle Lovell trainee then repelled a challenge in midstretch and outdueled a rival through the final furlong.
Nautical Star settled outside, advanced four wide on the turn moving with the leader, loomed a stretch threat but was outfinished. Gordian Knot dropped back outside, moved extremely wide on the turn and stretch with late energy.
Ninetyprcentmaddie saved ground under urging, angled out on the turn and finished well. Ryvit vied outside, led briefly between calls on the turn then weakened in the stretch. Dreaming Of Kona settled off the pace in the two path then drifted wide on the turn fading. Depoli lacked speed, saved ground under strong urging and was no factor.
Praetorian Guard lagged far behind throughout and passed a stopping rival. Sir Lancelot led narrowly under pressure to the three eighths pole and stopped while not asked in the late stages.
Ninetypercentmaddie, Ryvit, Dreaming of Kona, Depoli, Praetorian Guard and Sir Lancelot complete the order of finish. Freedom Road was a scratch by the trainer.
Fractions were 45.29 and 57.60 with a final time of 1:10.24. The track record was set by Iredell at 1:07.21 on December 30, 2017.
Damon’s Mount paid $5.60, 3.20 and 2.80 with Nautical Star paying $4.40 and 3.20 for place and Gordian Knot offered $3.20 for show.
Breaking his maiden on debut by 12-1/2 lengths in a field of 12 at Churchill Downs July 2, 2022, Damon’s Mound followed up with a win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in August.
The bay colt then had some rather lackluster result with a sixth place in the Grade 3 Iroquois. After a seven-month layoff he had an unfortunate performances in both the Palisades and Grade 2 Pat Day Mile.
Damon’s Mound got a bit of a bounce taking second in an Allowance in June before slipping to fourth in the Maxfield Overnight at Ellis Park July 2.
A bit of a rest, the colt came back strong in the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town August 25 take top honors by two lengths over Lord Miles winning $201.600 of the $350,000 purse. Damon’s Mound career earnings are $601,700 with his victory Saturday.
Damon’s Mound earned a 104 ESF for his run in the Gallant Bob.
A son of Girvin, Damon’s Mound is a Florida bred out of Stroll mare San Antonio Stroll.
Race 10 – The Parx Dirt Mile
Tom Coulter’s homebred Nimitz Class, a Pennsylvania-bred, would bring home the prize to his home state in the Parx Dirt Mile for trainer Bruce Kravets.
With Mish under Tyler Conner breaking first and setting the pace with a 23.84 opening quarter, Nimitz Class under Paco Lopez would stalk the pace just behind Grade 1 Forego winner Gunite with Tyler Gaffalione aboard.
Settled off the pace three wide, Nimitz Class crept closer on the final turn, dueled to the final furlong and drew clear while kept to his task. Gunite pursued Mish in hand, then led on the final turn, but was challenged by Nimitz Class and outfinished by 1-3/4 lengths.
Mish hustled to a clear advantage to the final turn, was collared by pair of rivals and came up empty. Dr B broke slowest, chased outside under urging on the final turn and weakened. Civil War lacked speed inside and failed to respond. Dr Ardito dropped back early inside and trailed nearly the entire trip.
Dr B, Civil War and Dr Ardito complete the order of finish. Whelen Springs was a scratch by the trainer.
Fractions were 47.59, 1:12.45 and 1:25.31 with a final time of 1:38.34. The track record was set by Rienzi at 1:34.51 on January 17, 2015.
Nimitz class paid a classy $15.00, 3.60 and 2.60. Gunite offered $2.20 and 2.10 with Mish coming in at $4.20 for show.
With a hefty 20 starts, Nimitz Class has 11 career wins, five which have come this year. The dark bay also has four seconds with career earnings of $709,980.
Breaking his maiden on second asking at Penn National January 4, 2022, Nimitz Class has only one seventh place finish in the Hard Spun at Presque Isle Downs and four fourth places: in his debut and an allowance at Penn National, and in two stakes in Maryland. Otherwise, Nimitz Class is all wins and places.
His wins include two allowance races at Penn National followed by the Danzig earning Black Type, all consecutive in the spring of 2022. Another allowance win at Penn National in October then closing out 2022 with a victory at Laurel Park in the Robert T. Manfuso.
In 2023, Nimitz Class came back to Laurel Park February 18 and swept his next three races. The John B. Campbell, Harrison E. Johnson Memorial March 18, Native Dancer April 29. He then went up to Parx to win an Allowance May 22.
The 4-year-old proceeded to place in stakes at three different tracks—The Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park June 17, The Deputed Testamony at Laurel Park July 29 and the Storm Cat at Parx August 21.
A son of Munnings, Ninitz Class was bred at Tom Coulter’s Arrowwood Farm and is out of Flatter mare Five Diamonds.
Race 9 – The Alphabet Soup
Earning his first stakes victory, Kingsport Farm’s King Kumbalay royally brought it home to Pennsylvania in the Alphabet Soup Handicap with a commanding win by 6-1/2 lengths under jockey Abner Adorno for trainer Butch Reid.
With Fore Harp under Frankie Pennington taking the lead and setting the pace by the quarter pole at 23.67 Jaime Rodriguez kept Market Maven close by as Adorno patiently settled King Kumbalay inside off the pace as Market Maven began to prompt the pace outside.
Market Maven faded on the final turn then came again inside. Fore Harp controlling the pace inside, was collared at the quarter pole then finished gamely for the place. King Kumbalay bid to the front into the stretch and drew away through the stretch.
Buy Land And See stalked the pacesetter three wide and continued well then came up empty in the stretch. John Dutton made a menacing four wide move on the final turn then faltered. Crisper saved ground close up, angled out on the turn then faded. Stella’s Tour dropped far behind and was never in contention.
Lacco Ameno trailed far behind then passed an eased opponent. Dee Jay raced close up briefly then stopped losing contact with his field.
Buy Land and See, John Dutton, Crisper, Stella’s Tour, Lacco Ameno and Dee Jay complete the order of finish. Fierce and Strong and You Must Chill were both trainer scratches.
Fractions were 47.73, 1:12.82 and 1:39.08 with a final time of 1:45.65. The track record was set by Havre de Grace at 1:40.93 on October 2, 2010.
The payout made for a tasty exacta with King Kumbalay rewarding player with $15.40, 7.40 and 3.80 for the win and Fore Harp giving $12.80 and 7.20 for place. Market Maven offered $4.20 for show.
With a whopping 20 career starts, King Kumbalay has six wins, five seconds and two thirds with $298,230 in earnings. The 5-year-old gelding ran twice in the Storm Cat at Parx with his best result a third place August 21.
The dark bay, a son of Shanghai Bobby, was bed by Jonathan Sheppard and is out of the Flower Alley mare Lovely Stay.
He sold to Kingsport at the Keeneland 2019 September Yearling Sale for $35,000, the same price Jon Ebbert paid for Arcangelo.
Stay tuned for Parx PA Derby Day Update Part Two!