Breeders’ Cup Roundup: Sept. 25, 2023

September 25th, 2023

Each week, J. Keeler Johnson reviews the latest news and results on the road to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

Saudi Crown is king of the Pennsylvania Derby

On Saturday, Parx Racing in Pennsylvania hosted its biggest racing day of the year. One of two million-dollar feature events was the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) for three-year-olds racing 1 1/8 miles, a prominent steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Saudi Crown started as the 11-10 favorite off narrow runner-up finishes in the Dwyer (G3) and Jim Dandy (G2), and the Brad Cox trainee didn’t disappoint. He set fractions of :23.16, :47.27, and 1:12.17 over a sloppy track before battling on gamely down the homestretch to deny a late bid from Dreamlike and prevail by half a length in 1:50.62.

A speedy son of 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, Saudi Crown is expected to target the Breeders’ Cup, with both the Classic and the shorter Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) being viable options.

Ceiling Crusher breaks through in Cotillion

The other feature race at Parx was the Cotillion (G1), a 1 1/16-mile contest for three-year-old fillies that usually tosses up a contender (or two, or three) for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Pretty Mischievous came in as the favorite off consecutive victories in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Acorn (G1), and Test (G1), but an up-and-comer stole the show. Ceiling Crusher, a talented California-bred shipping east off a victory in the Torrey Pines (G3) at Del Mar, led from the start through fractions of :23.31, :47.64, and 1:12.98 to prevail by half a length in 1:45.69.

Pretty Mischievous ran well in defeat, rallying from 7 1/2 lengths off the early tempo to finish second, but Ceiling Crusher proved too tough to catch in the closing strides. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the daughter of Mr. Big now boasts a near-perfect record of six wins and a third from seven starts.

Nimitz Class, Damon’s Mound shine on Parx undercard

A bevy of other stakes took place on Saturday at Parx, and two in particular could have Breeders’ Cup implications:

  • In the Parx Dirt Mile, multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Gunite was the heavy favorite. But the one-mile distance proved too far, and he weakened to finish second while Nimitz Class took command in the final furlong to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:38.34. Could the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile be next for Nimitz Class, who has quietly won four stakes this year?
  • Damon’s Mound picked up a third career stakes score when forging to victory in the Gallant Bob (G2), a six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds. Tracking and setting fractions of :21.68 and :45.29 did nothing to tire the son of Girvin, who turned back a challenge from Nautical Star to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:10.24. The Gallant Bob occasionally produces Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) contenders; perhaps we’ll see Damon’s Mound pursue that path.