HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 20, 2023 — And it will be an exceptional day for HRI’s Thoroughbred handicapper, too, who makes an exception and plays the Parx Racing this one day annually in an otherwise personal boycott of venues whose parimutuel takeout rates are excessive.
And we shall take a handicapping look-in at the G2 Gallant Bob, always an interesting and contentious sprint at six furlongs. But first this aside.
One would have expected Gunite, who won the G1 Forego at Saratoga, ending Elite Power’s current win streak at seven, to run in this event.
Rather, Steve Asmussen has chosen the ungraded $300,000 Parx Dirt Mile in the race before the Gallant Bob.
Reading the tea leaves, is Asmussen thinking about taking another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Gunite (2-1)? He finished fourth behind Cody’s Wish in last year’s event.
That leaves the Breeders’ Cup Sprint open to the sensationally fast four-year-old filly Echo Zulu. Very Subtle and Safely Kept beat the boys in two of the first seven renewals. Why not turn back the clock?
There’s no question Gunite has a wide class edge but there’s little question that the Parx Dirt Mile is a bridge race. The question is how wide the chasm.
The Gallant Bob has dawn a field of 10 and it’s wide open on paper. Asmussen saddles early line favorite Ryvit (5-2), at this juncture a nice colt but is no Gunite. Perhaps he need not be to win his first Grade 2.
In all probability, multiple Grade 1-winning Pretty Mischievous (2-1) would nail down the Eclipse title for three-year-old filly without even making the trip out West.
A win in the Cotillon would be her fourth at the 1-1/16 miles trip and fourth consecutive Grade 1 after inheriting the victory in Saratoga’s Test Stakes.
The only filly in her path would be Wet Paint but only if she beat her elders in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, at this juncture an unlikely scenario.
Pretty Mischievous is coming to the Cotillion the right way but it’s no walkover, as four of her eight rivals have a license upset the divisional leader.
Bob Baffert is shipping Reincarnate (3-1) 3,000 miles in search of his fifth Pennsylvania Derby. The post draw did the Los Alamitos Derby winner no favors as he drew the extreme outside in a field of 11.
Even without the terrible draw, the ante post favorite is highly likely to be Saudi Crown (7-2) who announced his presence when narrowly beaten by Forte at Saratoga.
Beaten a nose in both the G3 Dwyer and the G2 Jim Dandy, the Brad Cox-trained gray looks all dressed up for his Grade 1 debut on Saturday. Florent Geroux rides from post three.
PARX DIRT MILE Race 10
The Skinny: If you’re classifying, Gunite wins this one hands down after winning the G1 Forego at Saratoga last out. He likely will stalk early speedster Mish until Tyler presses the button.
But we’re reticent taking Grade 1 winners in an ungraded event next out, even given a $300,000 purse–not with a million and a Grade 1 title on the line in November at Santa Anita.
The two with the best upset chance are Dr Ardito (7-2) and Nimitz Class. The former won his Spa finale around a turn and a half when the leader gave way late and he’s 2-for-3 on wet tracks.
Nimitz Class (9-2) did all the hard work in the G3 Salvator Mile but was run down in the final sixteenth by the last-run perfect-trip-winning favorite. A boxed exacta looking to beat the choice and an odds-dependent straight bet seems the way to go here.
Straight Value: Dr Ardito, 3-1 or greater
G2 GALLANT BOB Race 11
The Skinny: Unlike Gunite, who was a tricky read for us, there’s little doubt Steve Asmussen would love to earn a Grade 2 title with Ryvit.
After rattling off five straight, the barn went for the gusto in Saratoga’s G2 Amsterdam but there was no beat the late speedster New York Thunder.
Following that came a 7-furlong sprint at Charlestown, which is a two-turn event around that bull-ring. Today’s it’s a turnback to a trip at which he’s 4-for-5; 5-2 and Tyler, too.
After that it’s wide open. Gordian Knot (5-1) is 6-for-8 with two wins at the trip and gets a stalking trip from his wide draw. Praetorian Guard (10-1) was getting to him last out and has two wins on wet tracks.
Nautical Star (9-2), a sharp winner over sealed slop, ships north from Florida for Saffie, who’s profitable with his shippers and attracts Irad.
The fuzzy in here is Ninetyprcentmaddie (10-1) who gained conditioning in a pace battle in a two-turn Grade 3 now turns back to six furlongs at which he’s 1-for-1. Paco rides him back.
Straight Value: Ryvit, 2-1 or greater. Price Shot: Ninetyprcentmaddie, 10-1 or greater
G1 COTILLION Race 12
The Skinny: Saturday’s Cotillion is Pretty Mischievous’ (2-1) race to lose and, at once, her race to nail down the three-year-old filly Eclipse title with her fourth consecutive Grade 1 score.
Only a possible Breeders’ Cup miracle by Wet Paint arguably could stave that off. She is a deserving favorite, a most probable winner, but is no layover.
Standing in her way is Defining Purpose (4-1). The most important meeting of the two came in the storied Kentucky Oaks. In that 9 furlong classic, Defining Purpose battled on or near a very strong pace throughout and kept trying despite tiring.
To her credit, perfectly positioned Pretty Mischievous took full advantage beneath Tyler Gaffalione who’s won seven times in eight rides on the filly. She’s never been defeated since adding blinkers–even if it appeared that streak would end in midstretch of the Test Stakes where fate intervened.
Since the Oaks, Defining Purpose was freshened briefly, responded with a sharp score in the G3 Indiana Oaks, and was a very game third after chasing the pace throughout the 10 furlong-Alabama in a first rate effort.
On Saturday, she will attempt to win for the fourth time in eight starts at today’s trip. She’s worth a win play at anything nearly her early line odds based on the Ky. Oaks trip, with key-boxed exotics including the favorite and Occult (6-1), a monstress winner of the key-race Monmouth Oaks last out. Lots of intrigue here…
Straight Value: Defining Purpose, 4-1 or greater
G1 PENNSYLVANIA DERBY Race 13
The Skinny: So, will Bob “Ship East” Baffert win his fifth Pa Derby? We will say this much, either Reincarnate’s (3-1) improving late in the season, responds much better to Juan Hernandez’ handling, or both.
The colt’s Los Al Derby visually was the best effort of his career. From the extreme outside here, he could fall into a comfortable stalking trip, so post 11 does not have to be disqualifying.
Like Pretty Mischievous, this is Saudi Crown’s (7-2) races to lose and it might take a herculean effort to do so. In his fourth lifetime start, he nearly won the Jim Dandy were it not for the nose of Forte and Irad Ortiz’s aggressiveness. The Always Dreaming colt is (4) 2-2-0 in his career, two noses costing him a perfect slate.
Everything is right for him Saturday. Well posted, tactically fast, and game, the spacing is perfect for his return and he has been working right along–five trials since the Jim Dandy, two of the bullet variety.
A wet surface will not be an issue, perhaps it’s even preferable.
Of the remainder, we find West Coast Cowboy (12-1) the most interesting. He returned for Saffie Joseph this summer a fresh horse, promptly winning a Gulfstream allowances.
His next effort was an even, non-threatening run in the Iowa Derby then returned to run quite well when second following a mid-race duel in the G3 WV Derby. Winning Red Route One finally ran to the early season notices, finishing like a wild horse down the center of the track.
Returning from another brief freshening, the Cowboy has had five works since, including a bullet and near bullet at his summer base in Saratoga. Tyler Connor gets the ride back, and the colt has run well on wet tracks thrice.
Saudi Crown is the key, obviously, hopefully optimizing exotically with his rivals above.
Straight Value: Saudi Crown, 2-1 or greater. Price Shot: West Coast Cowboy, 10-1 or greater.
Optional Allowances Race 14
The Skinny: We’re clueless given the spotty form in this 14-horse sprint lineup. On first pass–and we will finalize only after watching the early card unfold–we left five fillies open. In no particular order, our leans are toward Shero (9-2), Cabra Chica (8-1), Wicked Sight (5-1), Comedy Act (4-1) and Confirmed Genius (15-1).
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