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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

*EDITED FINAL: COTILLION, PENNSYLVANIA DERBY ANALYSIS AND BREAKDOWN OF THE BIG PHILLY 5

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 21, 2022  — The usual big things are happening this weekend at Belmont at the Big A and Churchill Downs, but this weekend belongs to Parx Racing. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a program in Bensalem PA as full of quality as Saturday’s.

I’m not a big fan of Thoroughbred racing in Pennsylvania, I love Presque Isle Downs in the western part of the state, it’s the stone age thinking that it’s good business to overcharge customers with punishing takeout rates is, at best, completely tone deaf. Keystone legislators know nothing about parimutuel wagering.

But I occasionally will bite the betting bullet when quality is high, e.g., Saturday afternoon that features a pair of million dollar races for three-year-olds. And each sex has a representative in a conversation about season-ending championships.

The Cotillion for fillies is at one mile and a-sixteenth, the Pennsylvania Derby requires the boys to travel another half-furlong before it can stake claim to the winner’s share of the pot. While favorites for each are easily discernable, a victory is far from assured.

Most observers, I included, believe Nest is not only the leading distaffer but might be is the best three-year-old in the country. I can’t go there quite yet; I don’t believe any sophomore is a match for Epicenter if every competitor brought their ‘A’ game. Definitive answers require compelling evidence.

Kentucky Oaks heroine Secret Oath is the deserving Cotillion favorite at 2-1. Following her filly classic score on the first Friday in May came three straight defeats, all in Grade 1s–the Preakness, Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama.

On those occasions 6-Secret Oath couldn’t match strides with Early Voting and Epicenter in Baltimore then was beaten decisively in Saratoga by Nest after defeating her in Louisville. Making her third start off a brief layup Saturday, she turns back to her best distance at which she’s 3-for-4.

There are several in the nine-filly lineup capable of an upset but the contention is nowhere as deep as it is in the Pennsylvania Derby, which has drawn the winners of the Blue Grass, West Virginia Derby, Arkansas Derby, Haskell, Peter Pan, Ohio Derby, Florida Derby, and Santa Anita Derby. Pretty rich, indeed.

Taiba is the narrow, albeit justifiable 5-2 favorite to turn the tables on his Haskell conqueror, 5-Cyberknife (3-1), the winner by a head with a more favorable trip. 8-Taiba will also attract underlay support because of his connections, as Bob Baffert seeks his fourth win in Parx’s signature event.

Taiba has worked on a regular schedule seven times since the July 23 Haskell, three of the bullet variety, but all were fast including several at longer sprint distances. The wide draw will give Mike Smith options as Cyberknife breaks three stalls away to his inside.

Only three of the 11 entrants are overmatched on paper. It should be noted, too, that two others hold a better than puncher’s chant to upset. 1-Zandon (5-1), pole sitting and reuniting with maiden-breaking partner Joel Rosario. The “other” Brad Cox, 7-Tawny Port (6-1), has Irad Ortiz taking a return call.

The 50-Cent Big Philly Pick 5 begins in Race 9 with the 5-furlong G3 Turf Monster, followed by the G2 Gallant Bob on dirt, the Cotillion, Pennsylvania Derby, and concludes with the $200,000 state-bred Alphabet Soup at one and one-sixteenth miles on turf.

PARX RACING

G1 COTILLION  STAKES           Race 11

The Skinny: There was a time earlier this year when Secret Oath was the talk of the sport. Her potential was boundless until she met a filly named Nest. Oh, she beat her in the storied Kentucky Oaks only to return and get drubbed by her rival at Saratoga. Twice.

Will she rebound today in her third start off a two month break. She’s favored to do so and very likely will do just that. But we’re going to bet on a filly on the come seeking her fifth straight win, including a repeat score over today’s surface—price permitting, of course.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  6-Secret Oath (2-1)

POTENTIAL WIN-VALUE PLAY:  1-Green Up  (6-1)

STRAIGHT WAGERS and EXOTICA:  Exacta Box: Secret Oath and Green Up, 1-6. Trifecta and Superfecta Key: Secret Oath over Green Up (6-1), Gerrymander (8-1), Shahama (8-1) and Society (8-1): 6 // 1.5.7.9.  Betting Green Up to win at 7-2 or greater.

G1 PENNSYLVANIA DERBY               Race 12

The Skinny: With divisional leading Epicenter sitting this one out and training up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a seemingly impossible date with Flightline, many of the divisional leaders are converging on Bensalem Saturday.

Consider: Who is the better horse, 8-Taiba (5-2) or 5-Cyberknife (3-1). My Guess is the former who was narrowly beaten by the latter on the Jersey Shore. Given video evidence, there is reason to believe that Taiba, who is—what else—working bullets, will even the score between the fences for which he likely will be over-bet because of the connects.

However, there is a third fly in this ointment: Blue Grass winner 1-Zandon (5-1). Has he turned into a bridesmaid since that impressive score in Lexington? There are reasons to believe he could be back on track. First, no Epicenter. Second, favorable pace dynamics are in his favor. Finally, he is tactical when necessary, is pole sitting, and reunites with Rosario.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  Taiba

POTENTIAL WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Zandon

STRAIGHT WAGERS and EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1.5.8.  Trifecta and Superfecta Wheel: 1.5.8 // 1.5.8 // 1.4.5.7.8.9 // 1.4.5.7.8.9. The bottom fillers are Skippylongstocking (10-1), Tawny Port (6-1), 9-Simplification (10-1).  Taking Zandon to win at 4-1 or greater.

G3 TURF MONSTER                     Race 9

The Skinny: As one might expect in a 5-furlong turf dash, there’s lots of early speed signed on but very likely none faster than 1-That’s Right (1-1), getting class relief after being pitched too high vs. Big Invasion and company at the Spa and gets the shortest trip home.

7-Boat’s a Rockin (10-1) has route speed, not sprint speed, but his splits going two turns at Penn National were absurdly fast. He’s worked well since, has two wins and placings sprinting, and won his only start at Parx. 4-Nothing Better (4-1), a distance specialist, gets Saez.

The fastest horses on figures lack turf experience. We’ll pass on those.

DESERVING FAVORITE: That’s Right

EARLY LINE VALUE:  Boat’s a Rockin

STRAIGHT WAGERS and EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1.4.7.  Trifecta Wheel: 1.4.7 // 1.2.4.7 // 1.2.3.4.7 // 1.2.3.4.7. Boat’s a Rockin to win at 6-1 or greater.

G2 GALLANT BOB                      Race 10

The Skinny:  This race is always contentious, and the 2023 renewal is no less so. We have narrowed the 14-horse field down to five top-finish contenders. Trips: 3-Provocateur (4-1), benefitted from a perfect trip, taking full advantage with a strong turn-move up the fence, a lifetime best performance. He’s had seven weeks of recovery time and attracts Irad.

8-Witty (12-1) was an excellent wide-finish second behind him after completely blowing the break but has that lamentable habit. Could take a flyer if the ML holds. John Toscano has done very well with 9-Runninsonofagun (6-1) since his claim early this year. He’s been finishing competitively in top flight NY company. 14-Scaramouche (5-1) has the speed and style that will benefit from the wide draw and Johnny Velazquez handling. Can you say spread race?

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  Provocateur

EARLY LINE VALUE:  Witty

STRAIGHT WAGERS and EXOTICA:  Exacta Box: 3.8.14*   Exacta Box: 3.9.14.*  Exacta Box: 3.10.14*.  Trifecta Key: 3 // 8.9.10.14.  STRAIGHT VALUE PLAY: 14-Scaramouche to win at 5-1 or greater.

*correcting typos 110422 at 11:04 AM EST

ALPHABET SOUP STAKES                       Race 13

The Skinny: Horseplayers need to go to school on previous turf race to assess course condition. Ironically, it appears that a firm course would be preferred by speedy favorite 1-Buy Land Or Sea (5-2) and 6-Midnight Hauler (7-2), who displayed a strong turn of foot to win his last vs. open rivals at Penn National last out.

In between is 7-You Must Chill (7-2) who finished second to ‘Hauler’ when he got first run but couldn’t last after failing to change to his correct lead. 4-Wait For It (6-1) is on clever hands and worked a strong 5F over the course last Saturday.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  Buy Land and Sea

POTENTIAL WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Midnight Hauler

STRAIGHT WAGERS and EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1.4.6.  Exacta Box: 1.6.7.*  Exacta Key: 1  // 4.6.7* Trifecta Key:  1 // 4.6.7.* Straight Play: Midnight Hauler to win at 7-2 or greater. *correction 12:01 pm

Per usual: Exotics are at minimums available. Straight wagers in $2 units or greater.

this is a live column that will be updated through Saturday *PLEASE NOTE 3 TYPO CORRECTIONS

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15 Responses

  1. John. I live near Parx and share your disdain for Pennsylvania racing. But, this card is big time and I love Adare Manor in Cotillon. Have a great weekend my friend

  2. Pete, it’s not the racing I dislike vehemently but the way lawmakers who set takeout rates think a form of usury is OK.

    And you’re right, it’s the best card I’ve ever seen going into the old Keystone Racetrack — not sure I’ve been there since.

    May your “Adare” filly, and all horses, have a safe and speedy journey…

    1. Parx made a slight reduction in takeouts in 2020, but no exotics bettor of sound mind would bother with Penn National.

      PARX
      WPS 17%
      P5 15%
      DD Ex 20%
      All Other 25%

      PENN NATIONAL
      WPS 17%
      DD Ex P5 20%
      P3 P4 25%
      Sup P6 30%
      Tri 31%

      PRESQUE ISLE
      WPS 17%
      DD Ex 20%
      P3,P4,P6 23%
      Tri Sup 25%

      1. Apologies to Parx, clearly was thinking old rates still in effect at Penn National.

        Well done Dan, thank you!

        Wrong at the top of my voice twice today. Mea culpa to all!

        (Sincerely hope we do better where it matters, our betting account).

  3. Waiting on a curmudgeon’s reading and comments of the PP’s to see if he has anything to offer other than providing rebuke of those who do not follow the understats as closely as he peruses the racing lines. In a way, he should love the less informed as he can capitalize on our dimes and fifty cent errors. I only offered numbers in a different venue last week to illustrate that he indeed is not the only one who puts in the work in within their chosen endeavors. Other than than, nothing to add. Enjoy this game for the fun of it all is all. Very content within the world of the fifty cent tri wagers thank you. Will stay with following Vino, John, Tabasco and all others adding comments at HRI. Smart enough to know there are others a heck of a lot smarter than I. Riders Up and safe journey to all.

    1. Don t know to whom you are referring about being a ‘ carmudgeon’ if you are talking in my direction I feel comfy about what I say,in my own words and skin as I wait for Jim Garoppolo’ s 49 RS to complete my 3 game parlay after the former Hofstra Jets lost and the Philly Steak Eagles won. Oh,yeah,after a 7 race slide without a triple since yesterday, i hit a $410 triple and the complimentary $ 62 exacta ,both few times each. And I gotta worry about your proclivity and sensitivities ? Between your geriatric Baloney and Pricci ‘ s comments,sorry Pricci and ” staff ” commentary , these columns would be empty.And that would not be a bad thing. Let’s s be honest here: What are you adding besides following the leader of the pack? Counting other people’ flatulence is Never enough ,worthwhile nor interesting .Smell your own breath,especially after so many yrs of being ‘ alive’ …or so some of us believe that we’ re doing…Living.Keep your chin up .

  4. Saturday September 24,2022
    PARX

    Race 11#1Green Up(6-1)- Gets acid test. Price, Distance 2/2, speed from the pole. This horse is a May foal which means physically he just coming into his own. Good value play
    #6Secret Oath(2-1)- The most likely winner. Hard hitter
    #2Adare Manor(7/2)- Has speed but more importantly back to Bob.
    #7 Shahama(8-1)-Pleatcher/Prat, 425,000 yearling purchase and undefeated in Europe shows up here.Most likely to run his best race today.

    12th race
    #1 Zandon(5-1)-Has run against the very best of his generation and has never been out of the money. Figures to save ground. Has never gone backwards, switches to Rosario who rode and won with him before. It’s now or never.
    #8 Taiba(5/2)- 4 career starts, huge upside and back to Bob
    #5 Cyberknife(3-1)-Finished noses apart with Zandon last race.
    #4 Skippylongstocking(10-1)-Perfect trip winner in last, can grab a piece at inflated odds.
    #6 We the People(12-1)-His last 3 were sneaky fast, gets Prat and distance suits.
    Note: Simplification and White Abarrio have NEVER won outside the state of Florida specifically Gulfstream Park.

  5. John, Your key is typed in on the #4 in RACE 10, but I think you want to correct your tickets to read #3. I almost used the #4 on the Twinspire account, but remembered you wrote Provocatuer in your post.

    1. Dammit, will take a look at that. Sorry all!

      Already corrected a typo, indicating Scaramouche as #12 instead of the correct #14.

      Will look at Race 10, thanks for heads up McD. Happy we named the horses; good catch!

  6. Yet another damn correction; must have had brain glitches throughout Friday…

    In the finale, You Must Chill, #7 [not #8], was meant to be included in any exotic plays.

  7. Awesome day of Fall racing yesterday. Post race comments can be summed up in two words, GUN RUNNER. What a day for this sire. Back to back Grade won wins at Parx and a double at Churchill too.

    Incredible performance by his off spring and clearly the top sire in USA.

    Taiba beat a very very good field yesterday, looks to be a serious threat in the BC.

  8. T,

    BB said yesterday that he don’t know if he can get close enough to Flightline, but he will be going after him. S\And so will Epicenter.

    In terms of the Classic, not a good year to have a 3-year-old hopeful.

    I do believe Gun Runner had a triple yesterday at CD. I was a big fan of the runner. As a sire, he’s been jaw-dropping.

    I know all about Tapit ,but haven’t seen, in my view anyway, a sire as dominant as the run Mr. Prospector had back in the day…

    1. The raise a native sire line, think Curlin and many other great horses carries a lot of weight with me also John and not just back in the day. TODAY.

  9. Thanks for the EX in race 9, and TRI & SF analysis in Race 12 yesterday. Thanks to you I cashed a few tickets which allowed for some added fun on my birthday 74.

  10. Well, a belated Happy Birthday McD! Happy to contribute to the festivities…

    Indeed, Race 9 was key . If only Secret Oath could have done her thing, however, the Philly 5 slipped away.

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