3-year-old title chase heads to Parx
By Bob Ehalt
The chase for a division championship continues Saturday with the last major stakes for 3-year-olds and 3-year-olds only
Perhaps this time someone will get it right.
After a long string of prep races, three Triple Crown races, the Haskell and the Travers, just about all that can be said about this year’s group of sophomore colts and geldings is that a turf star, Oscar Performance, is probably the pro-tem leader for an Eclipse Award.
That could change rather abruptly on Saturday when a field of 10 contests the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.
To date, five different horses have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell and Travers but that mold could change as Travers winner West Coast stands out as an 8-5 favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby.
If West Coast could add a victory in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby to his front-running 3 ¼-length score in the Travers, it just might enough to secure the title in such a whacky year.
Parx is new territory for California-based West Coast but the Bob Baffert-trained runner is hardly as one-dimensional as his name. In his last five races, he has raced at five different tracks, including three in the eastern end of the country.
“He was hitting, and looked good on it. It’s soft, and they like that soft going. It’s a lot softer than back home. Saratoga was kind of soft,” said Baffert after watching West Coast gallop over the Parx surface.
Though the mile-and-an-eighth Pennsylvania Derby is a furlong shorter than the Travers, West Coast could have a rougher time on the front end Saturday. Timeline (5-1 morning-line), Outplay (12-1) and Belmont Stakes runner-up Irish War Cry (9-2) all have sharp early which could spark some quick fractions.
Baffert said he’ll leave it to jockey “Big Money Mike” Smith to decide where to place West Coast during the early stages of the race.
“I leave that up to Mike,” Baffert said. “He’ll just play the grade, as long as they run their race. My job is getting them there healthy, and the rest, if they’re on their game then it’s up to Mike to get them there. So, I ‘ve got the hardest job, to have them ready. Otherwise, if they’re not ready, it doesn’t matter what Mike does.”
A fast pace could benefit Irap, the 3-1 second choice, who was third in the Travers and won a pair of graded stakes prior to that.
The rest of the field include Watch Me Whip (20-1), Talk Logistics (20-1), Game Over (12-1), Term of Art (20-1) and Giuseppe the Great (20-1).
The Parx card also includes the $1 million Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies, where Baffert once again has the horse to beat.
Abel Tasman (8-5) comes into the race off successive Grade 1 wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Acorn and Kentucky Oaks and would all but wrap up the 3-year-old filly championship with a victory on Saturday.