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Sweet Lou Monaco takes a look at Saturday's $1m Pennsylvania Derby

With the original 9-5 morning-line favorite, Haskell Invitational winner Maximum Security, scratched on Tuesday because of an issue with his colon, the Grade 1 $1 million-dollar Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing in Bensalem became an up-for-grabs race.

A field of six horses for the 40th running is slated as race 11 (1 1/8 miles) of the 13-race card and has an approximate post time of 5:48 p.m. ET.

#3, Improbable, Mike Smith, 8-5

The new morning-line favorite, Improbable, has won four of his eight career starts, but is just 1-2-0 in five starts this year for the Mike Smith/Bob Baffert duo. Having raced in three straight Grade 1 races: 2nd-place in Arkansas Derby (4/13), a 4th-place finish in the crazy Kentucky Derby (5/4) and a disappointing 6th-place finish in the Preakness (5/18), Improbable was due for a probable rest and took a much-needed 13 weeks off. The rest helped as he won the Shared Belief Stakes over King Jack (who is on the undercard today here in the G2 Gallant Bob), Lieutenant Dan and Street Class at Del Mar on Aug. 25 for his first win of the year. Baffert loves Parx as much as he likes Monmouth Park here on the East Coast, Improbable is training well and came out of Del Mar in good standing, and with all the nonsense surrounding his Triple Crown winner Justify over the past few weeks, Smith/Baffert would like nothing better than to quell the surrounding noise and take this. Improbable will be the probable winner. The pick.

#4, War of Will, Tyler Gaffalione, 4-1

With a Grade 3 (Lecomte, Fair Grounds, 1/19), a Grade 2 (Risen Star, Fair Grounds, 2/16) and the middle jewel of the Triple Crown (Preakness, Pimlico, 5/18), all tucked away on his resume, trainer Mark Casse is trying to find his old form again after disappointing finishes in the Belmont Stakes (ninth, 6/8) and a fifth-place finish in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 27. Just shy of two months rest, War of Will will be the last horse arriving at Parx for the race at 8 a.m. this morning, shipping from Belmont. I want to see War of bounce back in a big way and I think he can. Even the trainer thinks so. “He has done a lot of good things and there is no question he is an extremely talented horse,” Casse said. “His last two races have tarnished his reputation a little bit. We’re anxious to regain that.” We are all anxious to see it, I just don’t know if it’s going to happen to win. Runner-up.

#6, Mr. Money, Gabriel Saez, 2-1

Mr. Money certainly has gotten a lot of attention from a whole lotta people with his four straight Grade 3 victories (combined 20 ¼ lengths), including his latest six-length romp in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 3. The other two starts of the year, both out of the money, a fifth-place finish in the G2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 23 and a seventh-place finish in the G2 Risen Star, also at Fair Grounds, Feb. 16. This is a step up for him and whether he will atone for his performances in non-G3 races is still a question. I’m not buying the hype. In the mix, but comes up short.

#5, Spun to Run, Paco Lopez, 8-1

All three of his victories this year have come right here, highlighted by a head victory in the G3 Smarty Jones Stakes 19 days ago. In eight career starts, he has finished out of the money just once, his debut here in a maiden special on Oct. 15, 2018, where he finished fourth. The sneaky Paco Lopez returns for his third straight mount and will be heard from, it just won’t be enough. Contender.

PICKS: 3-4-6-5

Lou Monaco


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