>>Go to the PPs for the Pennsylvania Derby|Post Time 5:45 EDT Saturday
The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, a Grade 2 for 3yos over 1 1/8 miles, has drawn a field of 10 for its 36th running on Saturday afternoon. There is no American Pharoah, and there is no Keen Ice, the only horse to defeat the Triple Crown winner so far this year, but Bob Baffert has one in here, Todd Pletcher has two, and the 3rd-and 4th-place finishers from that entertaining Travers 21 days ago at Saratoga are here, as well.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the stalwart #10 Mr. Z will be on the early lead. He has danced just about every dance there is for this division, and he has run several TFUS Speed Figures that will give him a look in this race.
A pair of California shippers, #4 Iron Fist and #6 Gimme Da Lute, are projected to be in closest attendance to that early leader. Iron Fist has quite a bit of improving to do for his top-tier trainer after squandering a perfect trip in the West Virginia Derby last month, but Gimme Da Lute is a serious contender in this race. 6 for 9 lifetime, he enters looking for his 5th straight win. His recent TFUS Speed Figures (111-120-121-118) suggest he is not in over his head vs. the likes of Frosted and Upstart, and he has a handy running style, which should allow him to avoid being compromised by dynamics. The biggest question surrounding Gimme Da Lute is the travel. He has shipped twice before for Baffert, and has returned home with his only two losses from his last eight starts.
Of the two exiting that bang-up Travers, Frosted is obviously the one to discuss first. On a constant upswing as a 3yo for top connections, he ran perhaps the best race of his life when taking the race to American Pharoah early, and testing that rival all the way down past midstretch. He paid the price for the aggressive tactics, but it was an excellent effort overall, and resulted in another new career top TFUS Speed Figure for this talented colt (127). We’ll see if he can come right back with another top effort just three weeks removed from that gut-wrencher. If he can, he is not going to be easy to beat.
Upstart was more disappointing in the Travers. He sat a good trip there, one very similar to the one winner Keen Ice had, but he failed to kick it in through the stretch and was a no-threat 4th at the end. He is third off the layoff now, and we do think the cutback to 9 furlongs is a benefit to him. He clearly has races to get to that would make him a handful in this race, and if he is now set to come forward, while Frosted takes a step back off of that taxing Travers, he may be sitting in a strong position in this race.
The horses we are most interested in outside of the favorites are the Pletcher pair of #5 Madefromlucky and #7 Tommy Macho. Both are improving for Todd Pletcher right now. Madefromlucky earned a career-best 115 TFUS Speed Figure in winning the Peter Pan before trying the Belmont Stakes. His West Virginia Derby was a more impressive win than it may appear at first glance, in our opinion. Foregoing the opportunity to save some ground in the early stages, Madefromlucky endured a brutally wide trip to win clear in the end. Even over a track that was favoring closers (note Race Rating Box shaded blue), he did well to win as easily as he did after carrying so much ground.
Tommy Macho disappointed in that same race, but he clearly did not run his race there. Still lightly raced, he earned a 116 TFUS Speed Figure in his allowance win three starts back, and he then acquitted himself well in the Grade 3 Dwyer, which we consider to be one of the most underrated graded stakes run for this division all year.
Frosted is the most likely winner of the Pennsylvania Derby as the favorite.
Upstart has plenty of races in his past to suggest that he is the most likely upsetter.
Tommy Macho is the longshot we think has the best chance to get involved at a price.