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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Foreign Staff — Just whisper this, but the US Triple Crown and Triple Tiara aren’t the be all and end all for three-year-old thoroughbred racehorses in America. That’s just the first half of the season stateside with the program building to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships enhanced by changes to the schedule in recent years that puts horse racing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania front and center at the end of September.

Upgrading the Pennsylvania Derby and changing the Cotillion Stakes for fillies from a handicap to conditions contest off level weights has helped horses preparing for the end-of-year meet no end — you can read more here. Both races taking place at the same meet early in the fall created a stellar day of equine action that puts Philadelphia on the map as a horse racing hotspot within the tristate area alongside New York and New Jersey.

Bayern (outside of field) won the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby” (CC BY 2.0) by MDGovpics

Delays to the Triple Crown schedule that saw the Kentucky Derby run in September and Preakness Stakes held the following month meant Pennsylvania Derby day was missing from the pattern last year. Parx’s premier meet is back on September 25, though, giving the three-year-old colts, geldings and fillies the chance to prep for the Breeders’ Cup on the edge of Philly.

The importance of the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes en route to that event cannot be underestimated. You’ll see here that back in 2014, Bayern broke the Parx track record for nine furlongs and went on to Breeders’ Cup Classic glory for Bob Baffert, the first of three consecutive winners for the California-based trainer in the premier dirt race.

It’s no surprise that the barn has targeted the Pennsylvania Derby with runners ever since, winning it again in 2017 and 2018. It’s always worth looking at what late-blooming three-year-olds Baffert sends to Parx from a betting perspective. You can view the top sportsbooks and online casinos in Pennsylvania by clicking here and find odds for the race and other major equine events. Racebook services may be separate from regular sports betting, slots and table games with their own bonuses.

Midnight Bisou was awarded the Cotillion Stakes in 2018” (CC BY 2.0) by atthepaddock

If anything, the Cotillion Stakes is an even better guide to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff than the Pennsylvania Derby is for the Classic. Ashado established the race as a key trial while it was still a handicap, winning both events in 2004 for Todd Pletcher. A decade later, Untapable also did the Cotillion and Distaff double under female jockey Rosie Napravnik.

Plenty of other fillies, including Havre de Grace, My Miss Aurelia, Close Hatches, Songbird and Midnight Bisou, all won at Parx and then made the show at the Breeders’ Cup — see here. Hard-luck stories like Monomoy Girl, first past the post in 2018 but disqualified for interferences, can go on to have their day at the major meeting after running in Pennsylvania too.

There are other Breeders’ Cup trials all across America but Parx, formerly known as Philadelphia Park and before that Keystone Racetrack, has two genuine Grade 1 events that often sneak under the radar. Bensalem Township, where the dirt and turf tracks with a land-based casino attached are located, is a north-eastern outer suburb of Philly, close to the Delaware River which acts as the state boundary with New Jersey.

With new winners of the Keystone State’s top three-year-old thoroughbred races to be crowned this fall for the first time in a couple of years, the illustrious honor roll of the Cotillion and Pennsylvania Derby will continue. Parx’s premier race meet could yet throw up more Breeders’ Cup winners, so watch this space.

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