The calm before the storm is what many call the time from the end of the Saratoga meet to the Breeder’s Cup, but as we know, the fall racing season is exceptional. Next Saturday (September 28) is a huge day at Belmont Park, capped by the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a $1 million race that will pit the best three year olds against older horses for the first time.
Lost in the shuffle was a great day of racing at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA. Formerly Philadelphia Park, Parx often gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to horse racing tracks across the country. Parx is your classic in-between track. For the most part, it would not be considered major league and if it was classified like baseball, it would likely be labeled as Triple A.
Like many tracks and states, Parx was in trouble, suffering from dwindling attendance and interest, but thanks to video slots/gaming, the track and Pennsylvania racing has come back from the abyss. Robust would not be the word to describe it, but Parx is in a better place than it was a decade ago.
There is some recent history of success, as Smarty Jones, the Philadelphia Flyer cut his teeth training here. The trainer, John Servis, still trains at the park, and unlike many tracks, the Parx racing season runs from January 1 through December 31, a 12 month option for the racing fan.
Parx Racing’s big day was yesterday. There were five races that offered purses of $100,000 or more. The two $100,000 events were allowance races, but at $100K, certainly attractive. The two highlights of the card were the $1 million Cotillion for fillies and the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for three year olds. The other “big one,” was the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes at six furlongs.
The Cotillion was a matchup between undefeated Sweet Lulu and Close Hatches. Sweet Lulu went to the lead and cut honest fractions, including 1:10.2 for six furlongs. At the top of the stretch, she battled,faded to third, but ended up second behind the improving Close Hatches. The track was heavy and Close Hatches won in 1:44 for 1 1/16 miles. The 2013 edition certainly was not as scintillating as last year’s photo finish, but a thrilling stretch drive nonetheless.
The Pennsylvania Derby was a rematch of this year’s Travers as champion Will Take Charge took on Moreno and six other colts. While the investigation of whether Will Take Charge benefitted from the use of an electric device in the Travers continues, the two colts didn’t seem to carry that with them as they entered the gate. Moreno didn’t get the early lead, but by six furlongs, there he was in 1:10.3. But, Will Take Charge, who was nothing short of a disaster in the three Triple Crown races, decided to make his move much earlier and really dominated in the stretch to win in an impressive 1:49.2. The D. Wayne Lukas (and Lukas was there to see it), trained colt has really come into his own over his last three races and will have to be considered a threat moving forward. After a strong second place finish in the Jim Dandy, the long legged colt has two $1 million stakes wins in a row as well as $1.2 million in earnings.
The best race of the day might have been the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes at six furlongs. It is one distance where there is the most depth, and the Breeder’s Cup Sprint is always an exciting race. Black Hornet took the field through blazing fractions of 21.2 and 43.3, but in the end, it was 30 to 1 long shot City of Weston winning in 1:09.3.
With $2.5 million in purses, including $2.3 million for the three stakes races, the big winner was Parx. When you offer races with that monetary magnitude, it will generate the attention, which is good for not only Parx, but horse racing as well. Parx may be called a Triple A track, but yesterday, it was nothing short of Major League.