McKinzie To Make Return in G1 Pennsylvania Derby This Saturday

(Bob Baffert will ship McKinzie to Pennsylvania Derby  / Photo by Gene McLean)

(Hofburg prepares to go to the track this Spring in preparation for the KY Derby / Photo by Brad McLean)

From the Media Team at Parx Race Track:

BENSALEM, Pa. (Monday, September 17, 2018) Parx Racing will be the place to be this Saturday for the 39th Running of the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, the final stop for the 3-year-old Division before they move on to the Breeders’ Cup on November 3 at Churchill Downs.

The Pennsylvania Derby will highlight a spectacular day of racing as one of three graded races and five stakes races on the program joined by the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob for 3-year-olds, the $150,000, PA Derby Champion Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward and the $100,000 Alphabet Soup Stakes.

The Pennsylvania Derby will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Philadelphia from 4:30 pm to 6pm EST. The PA Derby is carded as race 11 with post-time at 5:45.

While this year’s Triple Crown winner Justify enjoys early retirement after his perfect streak of six career victories, he left behind a group of talented sophomores who will regroup to form a deep and contentious field in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx at 1 1/8 miles on the main track

Leading the field of 10 in the Derby is Justify’s stablemate McKinzie making his East Coast debut and first start since March 10 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The multiple graded stakes winning Kentucky-bred by Street Sense owns three victories from four starts and has the distinction of both winning and losing via disqualification in his short career after he was moved up from second to first to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity on March 10 at Los Alamitos.

The colt returned to win the Grade 3 Sham Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita before being disqualified to second for bumping after winning the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes by a head. McKinzie was shelved with a leg injury following the San Felipe, and has been working well at Del Mar for his return. A victory would give Baffert back-to-back wins and his third overall in the PA Derby after saddling West Coast to a 7 1/4 length victory last year.

McKinzie will break from post 8 as the favorite at 5-2 and be ridden by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith

One foe who could have a lot to say in the outcome is Belmont Stakes third place finisher Hofburg who will ship in from Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The late-running son of Tapit owns a lone fourth place finish at 2 before returning this year to break his maiden at Gulfstream Park. He then followed up with a strong kick for second behind three length winner Audible in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park. Mott decided to skip the Preakness after a rough trip landed the colt a seventh place finish in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs, and instead waited for the Belmont where he placed third 3 1/2 lengths behind Justify’s final career victory for the Crown.

The Juddmonte Farms colt returned to Saratoga where he debuted last year, and closed from last to first among four others to win the Curlin Stakes by five lengths on July 27. A victory would give Mott his third victory after he saddled 1998 Pennsylvania Derby winner Rock and Roll and 2011 winner To Honor and Serve.

Hofburg draws post 2 and Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons and is installed at 3-1.

Calumet Farm’s Bravazo ships to Parx off of his third place finish in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on August 25 which followed his runner-up finish to Good Magic in the Grade 1 Haskell on July 29 at Monmouth Park. The son of Awesome Again is the lone 3-year-old to continue on to the second half of the season after completing all three legs of the Triple Crown behind Justify’s sweep finishing 6-2-6 respectively. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won the 2013 Pennsylvania Derby with Will Take Charge has remained aggressive with his colt who will make his ninth start this year in search of his second victory since winning the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 17 at Fair Grounds Race Course.

Luis Saez will be aboard Bravazo and leave from the outside post 10 at odds of 6-1.

Instilled Regard will ship from Belmont Park to make his first start since his fourth place finish at huge odds in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. The colt by Arch will also debut for trainer Chad Brown since being transferred to the East Coast from Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s barn.

Instilled Regard began the year by topping a field of 12 others by 3 3/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes on January 13 at Fair Grounds Race Course. The Kentucky-bred colt then finished fourth in the Grade 2 Risen Star before repeating that finish margin in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7 at Santa Anita.

Instilled Regard draws post 3 and Jose Ortiz in the saddle at 15-1.

Trainer Peter Eurton will ship his Grade 3 Ohio Derby winner Core Beliefs back east after his fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park, the colt by Quality Road has been training well at Santa Anita.

Core Beliefs will run from post 5 and gets the services of Joe Talamo at 10-1.

Axelrod is another who make a return east, and will once again leave the gate at Parx after closing amid a wide journey to score by four lengths to victory in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes on August 25. The Florida-bred by Warrior’s Reward tries to win his third straight victory after beating Trigger Warning by a head in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby on July 14 at Indiana Grand Race Course.

Axelrod will run from post 6 and be joined by Joe Bravo at 5-1.

Trainer Dale Romans will send a pair of runners north from his home base at Churchill Downs led by Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes winner King Zachary. The son of Curlin enters off a fourth place finish in the Travers and will be joined by stablemate Mr. Freeze who through all four career starts this year boasts a second place finish in the Iowa Derby before winning the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby by eight lengths on August 4 at Mountaineer.

King Zachary draws post 4 with Corey Lanerie in the irons at 20-1 with Mr. Freeze will be to his outside in post 7 with Robby Albarado aboard at 12-1.

Breaking from the rail under Frankie Pennington, First Mondays (15-1) will make his fourth career start for trainer John Servis who hopes his Curlin colt can step up after his graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones where he closed well for third.

Trainer Mike Rone will round out the field with his colt Trigger Warning (20-1) who ships in from Thistledown after his sixth place finish in the Travers Stakes. Making his 10th start this year, the colt by Candy Ride owns a third place finish in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby and a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby.

Trigger Warning will break from post 9 under Irwin Rosendo.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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