A multiple of marquee names have been nominated on what promises to be a block buster day of racing on dirt and turf on Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Day at Parx Racing on Saturday, Sept. 25.

The 41st running of $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for three-year-olds has drawn as many as 33 nominations for a chance to start in the one mile and one eighth event on the main track.

The Pennsylvania Derby will cap off eight additional stakes races, five graded, and returns after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The race has built itself into an important date to the racing calendar since its inaugural run in 1979, and received Grade 1 status in 2017. It now serves as the last start for 3-year-olds before they go on to face older horses in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.

Roadrunner Racing, William Strauss, Boat Racing and Gainesway Stable’s  Hot Rod Charlie will return east once again from his home base in Del Mar after finishing first in the Grade 1 Haskell on July 17 at Monmouth Park. The Doug O’Neill trainee was subsequently disqualified following the race after a steward’s inquiry and placed seventh for drifting in and interfering with rival Midnight Bourbon during the stretch drive.

The colt by Oxbow would make his sixth start of the year from as many tracks at Parx, but still has to prove to his connections that he is ready to go

“We’re still a few works away, but we’re real optimistic about Charlie’s next stop, the Pennsylvania Derby,” O’Neill said. “The race looks to be coming up tough, which one would expect with a million dollars on the line.”

The Kentucky-bred broke his maiden in his fourth start as a two-year-old, then finished second to Essential Quality at long odds of 94 to 1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland. He returned to place third in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita before winning the Louisiana Derby (G2) by two lengths over Midnight Bourbon at Fair Grounds.

Hot Rod Charlie finished third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) then placed second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) before pointing to the Haskell.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert owns three victories in the Pennsylvania Derby with McKinzie [2018], West Coast [2017] and Bayern in [2014], and might send three with the hope of adding his fourth win to the list.

Zedan Racing Stables Medina Spirit returned to the winners’ circle for the first time since his front-running victory in the Kentucky Derby, and did so after leading five others from start to finish in the Shared Belief Stakes on August 29 at Del Mar. The victories bookended a third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, and joined his only other victory this year which came in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita.

The Florida-bred colt by Prontonico impressed his Hall of Fame trainer with his latest effort.

“Medina ran well. He was ready for that the other day,” Baffert said. “He came back and he was not even blowing. He looks really good right now. I think he is better than he was before the Derby. He has been able to grow up a little bit. People don’t realize it’s tough on those horses to keep going and going. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to horses that ran in the Derby and are still running. They go through a lot.

“He needed to run. That’s why I ran him in the Shared Belief. I think, to me, I would rather keep him with straight 3-year-olds even though the older horse division is sort of wide open right now. These 3-year-olds, this is when they start catching up to the older horses. I like to breeze them after they have run to see how they are doing. That will have a lot to do with it.”

Baffert’s remaining pair being considered is Defunded, who is coming off a win against allowance company at Del Mar following two runner-up finishes in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita and the Los Alamitos Derby (G3).

The colt by Dialed In began the year breaking his maiden at Santa Anita then place fourth in both the Santa Anita Derby and Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs respectively.

Little Red Feather Racing’s Bobby Bo is being considered off of his second-place finish behind Americanrevolution in the Albany Stakes for NY-breds at Saratoga on August 27. The colt by Speightster did not race as a two-year-old, and broke his maiden in his third start before shipping from Del Mar to Saratoga.

The next two weeks will determine who goes and who stays put for the Baffert runners.

“I like to see how they are doing. How they are training,” said Baffert. “Whoever is doing well, great. Then they go. I let them tell me, how they’re training. I don’t know, they are going to have to show me in the mornings. I have had a lot of luck there because I have brought really good horses up there. They work hard there [Parx]. Every time we have gone there, everyone is very nice. They do a good job.”

First Captain would make just his fifth career start in the Derby, but brings a strong resume after winning his first two starts before winning the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. The Kentucky-bred colt by Curlin followed up with a third-place finish in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

If First Captain breaks from the gate in the Pennsylvania Derby it would be the first for Terry Finley, the President and CEO of West Point Thoroughbreds, and a homecoming as well.

“That’s where I cut my teeth in the business,” Finley said. “I grew up about 20 minutes away from Parx, which, at that time, was Keystone. I have always dreamed about going back there with a legitimate shot to run well in the Pennsylvania Derby. It is going to be a great race. It will be a lot of fun.”

The complete list of nominations will be finalized on Tuesday.

Completing the undercard of Stakes races are:

Purse / Stakes                                                  Age/Sex                                    Distance

$200,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap (PA-Bred)     3 YO & Up                                1 & 1/16 Miles (Turf)

$200,000 Plum Pretty (PA-Bred)                           3 YO & Up Fillies & Mares   1 & 1/16 Miles

$200,000 Parx Dirt Mile – Listed                        3 YO & Up                                1 Mile

$200,000 Greenwood Cup GIII                            3 YO & Up                              1 & 1/2 Miles

$200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3)         3 YO & Up Fillies & Mare            1 & 1/16 Miles (Turf)

$300,000 Turf Monster (G3)                              3 YO & Up                                5 Furlongs (Turf)


Original source credited to: Horse Racing Nation

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