Two $1 million stakes races at Pennsylvania track


There are two $1 million stakes in North America this weekend at a racetrack you might not guess: Parx Racing. With two seven-figure purses fueled by an on-site casino, the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion co-headline an outstanding card in Bensalem, Pa.

The Pennsylvania Derby features Will Take Charge (2-1), who is hoping to win an Eclipse Award for 3-year-old males with a late-season rush. He won the Grade 1 Travers last out by a nose over Moreno (5-2).

The D. Wayne Lukas trainee never has been favored in any of his 12 lifetime starts, but he will be the public choice Saturday.

The one caveat I have about Will Take Charge is his dead-late closing style is not suited to the Parx surface. I find that horses with speed, or tactical speed, fit the profile better.

Also, those jockeys who take an inside path to save ground are going against the Parx grain. Historically, it is much better to be in the three or four path all the way around.

A horse who does fit the Parx profile is Moreno with his high cruising speed. If Jose Ortiz goes out fast and stays off the rail, he could be difficult to corral late. Moreno is my choice to win the Pennsylvania Derby.

The Cotillion favorite is Close Hatches (5-2) from the Bill Mott barn. She was last seen winning the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park on June 22. Mike Smith will ride, replacing the injured Joel Rosario.

The second choice is Sweet Lulu (7-2) who last out won the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. She is undefeated in four starts and gets Julien Leparoux to ride for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

There are multiple speed horses in the Cotillion, which could set the race up for Close Hatches. If she gets a stalking trip, as she did in the Mother Goose, she could be run over the top of this field late.

The depth of this group, and maybe the 3-year-old filly division, is such that the third choice, My Happy Face (9-2), most likely will scratch to run in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks on the same day. The purse is a lot smaller, but the task much easier, for My Happy Face who will be heavily favored.

The Charles Town Oaks drew 10 fillies with two more on an also-eligible list. My pick will be My Happy Face, who figures to go off at odds much lower than her 9-5 morning line.

About 25 years ago, I went to Parx, which then was called Keystone. The nickname for the track was Kmart. It’s moved up in class since.

■ HORSEPLAYER WORLD SERIES QUALIFIER — There will be a qualifier today for the 2014 Horseplayer World Series. You can play it at the Gold Coast, Orleans, Sam’s Town or Suncoast race books. The entry fee is $100 plus another $300 in live-money play.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick