A pair of grade 1 races worth $1 million each will take place at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania on Saturday: the Cotillion for three-year-old fillies and the Pennsylvania Derby for sophomore colts.
The Cotillion goes as Race 10. It is the third leg of an all-stakes Pick 4 started by the $150,000 Parx Dirt Mile and the $300,000 Gallant Bob. It drew a standout field of 11, with Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Serengeti Empress on the fence and the unbeaten favorite, Guarana, from stall eight.
Serengeti Empress has been second twice since her Kentucky Oaks victory, but stretches back out around two turns for this race. Tom Amoss trains, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride. His brother Jose Ortiz is on Guarana, a two-time grade 1 winner campaigned by Chad Brown. She broke her maiden by 14 ¾ lengths sprinting, then went to a mile to win the Acorn (G1) by six lengths. She scored in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) over nine furlongs; this is only eight and a half.
They aren’t the only contenders. Last year’s Eclipse Champion Two Year Old Filly Jaywalk will break from the outside. She won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs by five and a half lengths, and has been grade 1 placed since, but didn’t win again until smashing the Delaware Oaks (G3) by nine lengths in July. Joel Rosario will ride the daughter of Cross Traffic, who already has a victory over this track.
Santa Anita shipper Bellafina puts blinkers on for the Cotillion. She won a pair of grade 1 races as a two-year-old, and added three more graded events this season including the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) in April. She was fifth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks, and third as the choice in the Test (G1), but if two for three at this preferred distance. Flavien Prat rides for Simon Callaghan.
With the scratch of Kentucky Derby first-place runner Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interference, the Pennsylvania Derby became a much more wide-open affair. Trainer Bob Baffert, who won this race three of the last five years with Bayern, West Coast, and McKinzie, brings in Improbable. A grade 1-winning juvenile, Improbable was the post time favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and ultimately was placed fourth in that event. He came back off a poor showing in the Preakness Stakes (G1) to win the listed Shared Belief at Del Mar over a mile in a prep for this.
He takes on Preakness Stakes (G1) winner War of Will, who took the brunt of Maximum Security’s antics in the Kentucky Derby and lost all chance when bumped going into the stretch. Trainer Mark Casse has primed the son of War Front with three bullet workouts over the last month, including a :47.2 move at Belmont Park on September 14.
Mr. Money would be a popular choice to spring a mild upset. The son of Goldencents has won four straight grade 3 races from one mile to 1 1/8 miles. The last time he tried grade 1 company resulted in a fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.