A Little Warm tops field of seven in Penn Derby
Wide trips hurt several of the top contenders in the August 28 Travers S. (G1), some of whom will congregate in search of amends in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at the former Philadelphia Park. Most noted among these is A LITTLE WARM (Stormin Fever), the Jim Dandy S. (G2) winner who raced four-wide in third around both turns of that 1 1/4-mile test before tiring to fifth. A Little Warm cuts back to 1 1/8 miles for the Pennsylvania Derby, which was re-positioned this year in order to serve as a final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Even if Pennsylvania’s signature event fails to yield major contenders for the Classic, the race still shapes up as an interesting one. Among the other Travers players returning here are FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even), who still seeks his first major win after placing in the Travers, Haskell Invitational (G1), Belmont S. (G1), Preakness S. (G1) and Blue Grass S. (G1). The Dale Romans charge, who is still eligible for a first-level allowance, endured a three-wide trip around both turns at Saratoga.
AFLEET AGAIN (Afleet Alex), who upset the Withers S. (G3) earlier this season, raced wide while racing near the back of the Travers field and had more left in the tank during the late stages to rally for fourth. Meanwhile, New York-bred stakes winner FRIEND OR FOE (Friends Lake) raced well off the rail around both turns at the Spa but failed to significantly improve his position and finished in midpack.
EXHI (Maria’s Mon) suggested he’s more than a one-trick pony with a solid second-place finish in the August 7 West Virginia Derby (G2), which followed four straight synthetic scores in the Victoria Park S., Marine S., Lexington S. (G2) and Rushaway S. Javier Castellano takes over riding duties from Robby Albarado, who’s picked up the mount on First Dude. The improving MORNING LINE (Tiznow) makes his stakes debut for Nick Zito following an impressive 11-length allowance romp at Saratoga.
The major outsider in the Pennsylvania Derby is SEVERE WEATHER (February Storm), who recently ran out of the money in a conditioned claimer over the Penn National turf course.
The supporting feature on Saturday’s program is the $200,000 Turf Amazon H. for fillies and mares over five furlongs. While unlikely to throw up a Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) contender, the race features an exciting showdown between the talented Todd Pletcher trainees WEST OCEAN (Elusive Quality) and ROSE CATHERINE (Speightstown), a sophomore upstart who enters off back-to-back stakes wins at Saratoga and Monmouth.
West Ocean missed catching DUBAI MAJESTY (Essence of Dubai) by a neck in the Incredible Revenge S. after a wide trip last month, and that rival subsequently missed by a head to champion Informed Decision (Monarchos) in the Presque Isle Downs Masters S. (G3). Dubai Majesty, a multiple Grade 3 winner on dirt, is three-for-five on grass and missed by a neck in the 2009 Turf Amazon to CANADIAN BALLET (City Zip), who figures as one of the longer shots in her title defense.