The final race in September takes horse bettors to Philadelphia Park for the running of the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby featuring some of the top three-year-old thoroughbreds in the nation.
The entire field for this race runs deep in talent with 12 entries set to compete for this year’s title. This will be Nyquist’s first race since late July and the last time Exaggerator competed was a month later in the Travers Stakes so it will be interesting to see if some of the other top contenders can make a run at these two favorites. Here is a look at my top three betting picks to use in a winning trifecta play for Saturday’s main event.
2016 Pennsylvania Derby- Philadelphia Park
The Pennsylvania Derby is a Grade 2 stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbreds. It will be contested on the dirt track at Philadelphia Park over a distance of 1 1/8 miles and the total prize purse for this year’s race has been set at $1 million.
The big highlight of this race is an expected showdown between Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator in yet another head-to-head duel.
The last time we saw Nyquist was in this year’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and he placed a disappointing fourth behind Exaggerator as the winner. This followed a third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby this past May. Trained by Doug O’Neill, this three-year-old Kentucky-bred colt will break from the No. 9 post as a favorite at Bet365 +250 on the morning line and I like his chances to win this time around.
Nyquist comes into this race ranked No. 12 by Horse Racing Nation with an overall rating of 8.57. I still believe he is the best three-year-old in the nation right now and the added time off should serve him well at a distance he is very comfortable with.
It is no big surprise that Exaggerator comes into this race as a second-favorite to win out of the No. 2 post +350 at BetVictor. My big concern for Saturday will be what kind of lingering effects may carry over from a stunning 11th-place finish in last month’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga over a distance of 1 ¼ miles. This mirrored his collapse in this year’s Belmont Stakes when he finished 11th as well, but the shorter distance of this Saturday’s race should better suit his style.
Trained by Keith Desormeaux, this three-year-old Kentucky-bred has excelled at the 1 1/8 length with victories in the Haskell and earlier in the year in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. Exaggerator’s current HRN rank is No. 19 with an 8.48 rating.
The battle for third place in this year’s Pennsylvania Derby could be just as good as the race to win this event outright with a stacked field of proven contenders, and the oddsmakers prove it across the board. For my third choice, I am going pure chalk in this major graded stakes race with trainer Bob Baffert’s Cupid as a third favorite to win breaking out of the No. 5 post +450 at BetVictor . The main reason for this pick was just how good this three-year-old Kentucky-bred colt looked in his recent victory in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack on Aug. 6 over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
This horse continues to get better and better as the year wears on after falling well off the pace in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby with a dismal 10th-place finish leading into the Triple Crown racing series. While he sat out all three of those events, he returned to the track in mid-July to also win the Grade 2 Indiana Derby at Indiana Downs.