1 of 2 | Saudi Crown (R), shown finishing second to Forte (C) in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, returns in Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association
Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The 3-year-olds are at it again in weekend horse racing, with the $1 million Grade I Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes highlighting the agenda.
After a turf-filled weekend dominated the middle of the month, most of the big-time action this time around is on the dirt. There are some excellent, wide-open contests to challenge even the sharpest handicappers.
Things are relatively quiet on the global front with the Prix de l'Arc de Troimphe just a week down the road.
That's then. This is now:
Saturday's $1 million Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing has a bit of everything the 3-year-old division has to offer.
There's Saudi Crown, who just missed by a nose beating Forte in the Grade I Jim Dandy.
There's Los Alamitos Derby Reincarnate, representing the irrepressible Bob Baffert's barn.
There's Il Miracolo, who returns after winning the Grade III Smarty Jones over the track in his last visit.
There's Scotland, who was 3-for-4 until he tapped out in the Travers, fading from the lead to finish fifth.
For those who don't believe in Travers winner Archangelo, the winner of this might have a chance to work back into the picture for year-end honors consideration.
At the other end of the spectrum and for the real long shot devotees, locally based Modern Era gets into the $1 million, Grade I race still a maiden after eight starts.
Red Route One and Hit Show jump off the past performances page for Sunday's $400,000 Grade III Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.
Red Route One, the favorite in a field of 13, finished fourth in the Preakness and eighth in the Belmont, won the Grade III West Virginia Derby and was eighth in the Dueling Grounds Derby on the turf in his last start.
He represents the Gun Runner-Winchell-Asmussen combination that's been so successful in the past few years. Hit Show was fifth in the Louisville classic, fourth in the Preakness and fifth in the Grade I Jim Dandy in his last trip to the track.
An issue: Red Route One drew gate No. 10 and Hit Show is in 13.
Slip Mahoney and Denington, the second- and third-place finishers, respectively, in the St. Louis Derby at the old Fairmount Park in their last start, face off in a field of seven in Saturday's $300,000 Bourbon Trail Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.
Oscar Performance has been improving and won impressively in his last at Ellis Park. Also here is Shirl's Bee, making his first start since finishing second to Tall Boy in the UAE 2000 Guineas in Dubai on Feb. 10.
Trained there by Doug Watson, the Charles Fipke homebred now is in Dallas Stewart's barn.
Next has come into his own since moving to marathons, winning four of his last five starts, and the 5-year-old Not This Time gelding looms over seven rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing. It's 1 1/2 miles around three turns.
Pretty Mischievous, riding a three-race, all-Grade I winning streak, bids to make it four as the favorite among nine in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing.
She won the Kentucky Oaks by a nose and the Acorn and the Test by a head each time. None of those who were close in those races are back.
But the field does include Hoosier Philly, who won the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last November with Pretty Mischievous third.
That rival hasn't threatened Pretty Mischievous in two later head-to-head meetings. Occult, Defining Purpose and Ceiling Crusher deserve consideration off recent results.
Trainer Brad Cox ships in Merlazza from Kentucky for Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Remington Park Oaks and she's pegged as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.
Merlazza, by Medaglia d'Oro, won four straight early in the year, then was fifth in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan and fourth in both the Grade III Indiana Oaks and the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park.
Taxed was overmatched in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga in her last start but finds a friendlier situation in Saturday's $175,000 Seneca Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.
The Collected filly, winner of the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, might have to catch a well-bred Godolphin filly named Poblano, who clicked for a 9 1/4-length win at Ellis Park on Aug. 4 in her 3-year-old debut.
That's well-bred even by Godolphin standards -- by Curlin out of the A.P. Indy mare Kinda Spicy.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds at Parx Racing is a fascinating mix of locals and promising invaders, making it tough to scope out.
One to watch is Nautical Star, a Dixie Chatter colt trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. He finished well up the track in the Florida Derby, and then took more than three months off and returned to win handily over a sloppy track at Gulfstream Park. Maybe he's nothing, but maybe he's something.
Churchill Downs invader Damon's Mound is the lukewarm 4-1 favorite on the morning line.
Saturday's $300,000 Harrods Creek Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs has some really nice miler-sprinter types -- so much so that it's hard to separate them. Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has Everso Mischievous, Loyal Company and Mount Up as the favorites, but others certainly are capable.
Gunite is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $300,000 Parx Dirt Mile, and if he really goes to the post at those odds, he will be an attractive chance.
So far this year he has won the King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn Park; finished second in the $1.5 million Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia; finished third in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen; and reeled off consecutive victories in the Aristides at Churchill Downs and the Grade I A.G. Vanderbilt and the Grade I Forego, both at Saratoga.
Goodie Goomer, the longest shot in the six-horse field, found the best late speed in Monday's $150,000 Presque Isle Mile and ran by the leaders to win by 1/2 length over He's a Mess. The favorite, Carrothers, finished fifth.
Goodie Groomer, a 5-year-old Verrazano gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course in 1:43.70 with Angel Stanley in the irons.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs is about as wide-open as a race could be. Six of the nine entrants finished first or second in their last start and the figures are roughly comparable.
The issue is that those last starts came on six different tracks, one of them an all-weather surface. This is exactly what Andy Beyer addressed when he developed his Beyer Speed Figures system. But even he stresses the numbers must be assessed within the nuances of the actual races.
Already in the books: Accomplished Girl led from the start in Monday's $300,000 Grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters and lasted through the final yards to win by 3/4 length over Midnight Stroll. Marissa's Lady was third and the favorite, Loyalty, finished fourth.
Accomplished Girl, a 3-year-old Street Boss filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.29 with Edgard Zayas up for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
With a tropical depression approaching Aqueduct, Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Noble Damsel Stakes for fillies and mares has seven entries and another five listed as "main track only" also-eligibles.
If it's on the turf, the Chad Brown-trained trio of Fluffy Socks, Gina Romantica and Gerrymander looms large. If it's off, so are all bets, figuratively speaking.
Roses for Debra takes on male competition for the first time in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Turf Monster at Parx Racing, but the signs are all positive.
The 4-year-old Liam's Map filly has won seven of nine lifetime starts with a DQ in her career opener and a misfire on the Keeneland dirt the only blemishes. She won the Grade III Caress and the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga in her last two starts.
Around the world, around the clock
The two strong favorites finished 1-2 in Monday's Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen, at Nakayama Racecourse, a trial for the Group 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger.
But the order of finish was the reverse of the market prediction as second-favorite Lebensstil got first run to the lead midway down the stretch and the favorite, Sol Oriens, second in the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby in his last start, couldn't catch him.
Lebensstil, a Real Steel colt, was taking a big class jump after finishing third in a Grade 3 event at Fukushima in his previous outing.
He obviously enjoyed stretching out to 2,200 meters after going 1,800 in each of his previous five starts. Sol Oriens, by Kitasan Black, got a wider trip than his rival but lacked a closing punch while coming off a four-month layoff.
Sunday's Group 1 Preis Europa at Cologne, pending final declarations, has a field of nine to tackle 1 1/2 miles.
The home team will take on Godolphin's Siskany and Live Your Dream, trained by Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor, respectively. Siskany, a 5-year-old Dubawi gelding, was last seen winning the Grade II Belmont Gold Cup in New York in June.
Live Your Dream, a 6-year-old Iffraaj gelding, comes off a third in a heritage handicap at York.