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2023 Pennsylvania Derby Preview & FREE Picks | Saudi Crown Could Give Cox 1st Win
Saudi Crown (Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Pennsylvania Derby Preview & FREE Picks | Saudi Crown Could Give Cox 1st Win

Aaron previews the 2023 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) from Parx, then gives his top picks & long shots.

Can Saudi Crown build off of his narrow Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) defeat & give trainer Brad Cox his 1st win in this race? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be looking for his record fifth victory when he sends out favored Reincarnate in the 43rd running of Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million betPARX Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. 

The Pennsylvania Derby goes as the 13th of 14 races Saturday, with post time at 6:10 p.m. ET. First post Saturday is 11:35 a.m.

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Reincarnate, owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC and Catherine Donovan, was installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby, which drew a field of 11.

Reincarnate, who will be ridden by Juan Hernandez, will start from the outside post 11.

“Oh, man, I am going to hang up,” Baffert said with a laugh by phone from California when told Reincarnate’s post for the 1 1/8-mile race. “It means lucky 11. I was hoping to get in the middle somewhere, but you can’t change it. He’s still going.”

Reincarnate, a son of Good Magic, last raced July 8 when he won the Los Alamitos Derby gate-to-wire by 2 1/2 lengths.

This season, he has two wins and two thirds in five starts. Before Los Alamitos, he was 13th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

“This race is going to be a good step up for him,” Baffert said. “He ran really well at Los Alamitos. He is going to have to break well and show up. That’s the main thing. If he shows up, I don’t see why he wouldn’t run well.”

FMQ Stables’ Saudi Crown, trained by Brad Cox, is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. The son of Always Dreaming has been idle since a gutty second-place finish behind Forte in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 29. He was also second in the Grade 3 Dwyer May 21 at Belmont Park. He will be ridden by Florent Geroux.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Magic Tap, the 5-1 third choice on the morning line. The lightly raced son of Tapit will be making his stakes debut in the Derby after winning an allowance race by a neck at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 13. Magic Tap, who will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, has two wins and two seconds in his four career starts, all of them this year.

Scotland, owned by LNJ Foxwoods and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, will attempt to build off his sixth in the Grade 1 Travers Aug. 26 at Saratoga Race Course as he makes his first start since with regular rider Junior Alvarado. He is the 6-1 fourth choice on the morning line.

Eduardo Soto’s Il Miracolo (8-1) comes into the Derby after winning the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes Aug. 22 at Parx for trainer Antonio Sano.

Gilmore, owned by the same connections as Reincarnate, was fourth in the Grade 2 Amsterdam July 28 at Saratoga and then won an allowance at the Spa Aug 30. The Brendan Walsh-trained son of Twirling Candy is 10-1 on the morning line and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who rode him in his first start nine races ago.

“The last race, and the way the horse has gone in general gives us more confidence going into this race,” Walsh said. “He’s doing great, really improving as the year has went on. We feel like it’s time to give him a shot at something like this.”

Dreamlike, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, is 10-1 on the morning line and is coming off a pair of Saratoga races. The son of Gun Runner, owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, broke his maiden July 14 and was fifth in an allowance Aug. 13. Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride.

Completing the field are:

  • Daydreaming Boy, conditioned by Parx trainer Louis Linder and to be ridden by Dexter Haddock, was third in the Smarty Jones
  • West Coast Cowboy, who was second in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby and is from the barn of Saffie Joseph Jr. and keeps rider Tyler Conner
  • Crupi, also from Pletcher, won an Aug. 18 allowance on a muddy track at Saratoga
  • Modern Era from the barn of Parx regular Uriah St. Lewis, a maiden who will be making his stakes debut after 8 starts

The Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion headline Saturday’s card that also includes the $400,000, Grade 2 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds at 6 furlongs; the $300,000 Parx Dirt Mile Stakes for 3-year-olds and up; the $250,000 Grade 3 Turf Monster Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 5 furlongs on the turf; and the Grade 3, $200,000 Greenwood Cup for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/2 miles.

The field for the Grade 1, $1 million betPARX Pennsylvania Derby, with jockeys and morning-line odds:

1. Modern Era, Patrick Henry Jr., 50-1

2. Dreamlike, Irad Ortiz Jr., 10-1

3. Saudi Crown, Florent Geroux, 7-2

4. Magic Tap, Tyler Gaffalione, 5-1

5. Scotland, Junior Alvarado, 6-1

6. Daydreaming Boy, Dexter Haddock, 12-1

7. West Coast Cowboy, Tyler Conner, 12-1

8. Gilmore, John Velazquez, 10-1

9. Crupi, No rider, 15-1

10. Il Miracolo, No rider, 8-1

11. Reincarnate, Juan Hernandez, 3-1