The Brock Talk

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Honor And Win Pennsylvania Derby

Parx Racing figures to be punching some of the final tickets Saturday for a trip to Churchill Downs in for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run Nov. 5. While older horses will have their chances to prepare for the Classic in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the Goodward at Santa Anita, two grade 1 races to be run Oct. 2, the Pennsylvania Derby allows three-year olds an opportunity to prepare for the big race against contenders their own age.

Some of the nine Pennsylvania Derby contenders may not have the Breeders’ Cup Classic in their plans if the win Saturday, but with Horse of the Year candidate Tizway missing the Jockey Club Gold Cup and division leadership currently belonging to single grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty, it would be difficult to pass up the opportunity.

Although the Penn Derby has an impressive list of winners going back to Smarten taking the inaugural version of the race in 1979, the race has little success at producing Breeders’ Cup winners. The lack of association with the Breeders’ Cup is not so much because of quality, but rather chronology. The first eleven Penn Derbies were run on Memorial Day and the first five were run before the first Breeders’ Cup in 1984. Then from 1990 through 2009, the Pennsylvania Derby was run on Labor Day.

The race favorite this year is Ruler on Ice at 5-2 in the morning line. The Kelly Breen trainee is looking to become only the second Belmont Stakes winner to also take the Pennsylvania Derby, following Summing in 1981. Since his score in the third leg of the Triple Crown, Ruler On Ice is winless in two tries, finishing third behind winner Coit in the Haskell Inviational (gr. 1) and fourth, just four lengths behind winner Stay Thirsty in the Travers (gr. 1) Aug. 27. Breaking from the inside post, jockey Garret Gomez should have little trouble placing the son of Roman Ruler just behind the speed of the race and find a position from which to pounce turning for home.

Some of the speed may come from To Honor and Serve, once thought to be a Kentucky Derby contender before a strained suspensory ligament in the colt’s left front forced him to miss the Triple Crown. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve has started twice since his comeback, a lackluster sixth-place finish in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. 2) and winning an optional claiming, both at Saratoga in August.

Breaking from post position seven, jockey Jose Lezcano should have little trouble placing To Honor and Serve just to the outside of Rush Now, who figures to be on the lead immediately from post position five. Not sure if the problem is the jockeys or To Honor and Serve, but Lezcano will be the fifth different rider in as many races for the son of Bernardini.
Rush Now with number eight JW Blue are also entered in the grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park and number three Pender Harbor is cross entered in the ungraded Ontario Stakes at Woodbine.

Rush Now is the 4-to-1 third choice in the Ontario and 9-to-2 fourth choice in Pennsylvania. Second to Prayer For Relief in the West Virginia Derby Aug. 6, Rush Now also won the $81,000 Spend A Buck Stakes at Monmouth and a $40,000 claiming race at Laurel in February.

Expected to be a bit further back early but close to if not the leader at the wire is Rattlesnake Bridge breaking from the far outside. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin the son of Tapit was four-wide in the first turn of the Travers and drifted out in the streatch as well. However, the grey Rattlesnake Bridge was still able to get up for second, just ahead of fellow Penn Derby foe JW Blue.

Brock Talk Penn Picks
To Honor and Serve has an abundance of talent over this field and could win very easily. He should have no problem sitting behind Rush Now; or taking the lead himself should the later go to Delaware.

Ruler On Ice looks to be a very beatable favorite here and it’s doubtful third choice Rush Now will get the easy lead he may need. Ruler On Ice has not looked sharp since winning the Belmont and Rush Now could also go to Delaware.

That leaves some room for some price horses to put along with To Honor and Serve in what ever exotic you may enjoy.

JW Blue finished just two lengths behind Stay Thirsty in the Travers Aug. 27 and if not for bad racing luck, may have more of a race of it. Another from the Anthony Dutrow stable, JW Blue broke slow in the Travers and was then caught five wide turning for home. He hasn’t won since an allowance victory at Oaklawn Park in January, but has only been worse than third twice in six starts, all against stakes horses.

At 12-to-1, Norman Asbjornson won his last race, (an optional claiming at Parx), by nearly five lengths. That means he likes the track at the very least and he has some back class to go with it. In March he was second to now divisional leader Stay Thirsty in Gotham (gr. 2) and a decent fourth in the grade 1 Wood Memorial a race later. He skipped the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1), then had a very rough trip and finished 11th in the Preakness.



Adam Hickman said...

Ruler on Ice will be a beatable favorite for the rest of his career! All aboard with the pick you've "Served".

Unknown said...

You "Honor" me with your comments Adam.
What is it with these winners of TC races recently that can't win again?

Greg Jones said...

Mr. Sheridan,

Was wondering if you know the whereabouts of SUMMING. He is the oldest living (hopefully) winner of the Belmont and the grandsire on the dam's side of my horse Half A Biscuit. All of the information on the internet is old and no longer valid. the farm that he was retired to was sold and non of the contact numbers are working numbers. I have checked the Jockey Club site and even emailed them only to hear back that they have no updated information on him. Thanks in advance--Greg

Unknown said...

Greg, If the Jockey Club has not update on Summing, I can't think of where your next step might be in finding Summing.

You might consider writing different State TB Associations and see if they have any records or know of anything regarding Summing.

Good luck Greg and keep us posted.