BENSALEM, PA – Gary West’s budding superstar West Coast proved that he’s dangerous on the lead, using those tactics to earn his second straight Grade 1 win in Saturday’s $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.
Breaking cleanly from post 4 under regular rider Mike Smith, West Coast shot to the front alongside Outplay, with the two colts taking turns leading through fractions of :23.20, :47.24, and 1:11.18. Nearing the 1/4 pole, Smith was done sharing the lead and gave the signal to West Coast, who immediately responded by extending himself considerably in the final furlongs while still in hand. The Bob Baffert trainee completed the 1 1/8-mile main track event in a final time of 1:49.91, an easy 7 1/4 lengths ahead of the field.
“I felt real good on the first turn,” Baffert said. “Mike had him in a good position, kept him on the outside. I told him, ‘Don’t go near the rail.’ At the 3/8 pole, he had a lot of horse, and I was afraid (West Coast) was going to get a little bored out there. He’s just learning how to run, and to have a 3-year-old this time of year and the way he won the Travers and now winning this race, he is going to be a horse to reckon with.”
Irap settled wide off the pace early before closing from fifth to take second by a length over Giuseppe the Great, who hit the board as a longshot for the second straight time following the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. Game Over took fourth ahead of Talk Logistics, with Outplay, Timeline, Irish War Cry, Term of Art, and Watch Me Whip completed the order of finish.
Immediately after crossing the wire, jockey Mario Gutierrez pulled up Irap, causing great concern amongst the racing community. The hard-fighting champion of the Grade 3 Indiana Derby, the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, and the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes was vanned off and taken for X-rays.
“Irap is resting comfortably in his stall,” trainer Doug O’Neill posted in a statement to his Facebook page on Saturday evening. “Irap sustained a fractured sesamoid. He is scheduled for surgery Monday morning at New Bolton with world renowned surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson who operated on Barbaro. Attending will be our own Dr. Ryan Carpenter who will be flying out to assist. Please continue to keep Irap in your prayers.”
West Coast’s win improved his stellar record to 8-6-2-0 with career earnings of $1,543,800, all but clinching the 3-year-old male division’s year-end title. As is the case with seemingly every other Baffert male horse this year, the 3-year-old son of Flatter is heading to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Del Mar.
“This horse is just getting better and better,” said Baffert, who clinched his second Pennsylvania Derby win after Bayern set the still-standing track record (1:46.96) in 2014. “We thought he would run a big race, and he was calm in the paddock. He is just a big boy. It was nice the way he ran. He did it pretty easily.”
West Coast returned $3.80 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.20 to show. Irap brought back $3.40 to place and $2.80 to show, while Giuseppe the Great paid $6.40 to show.