Pennsylvania Derby (Grade I)


By Michael Patricks

People ask me all the time why I choose horse racing for my gambling dollar instead of participating at the casino tables, playing poker, or even involving myself in fantasy sports as so many people do nowadays on a daily basis.  The reason I choose horse racing is because I like to be patient and wait to find value where it exists.  In a casino, whether it be table games or slots, you do not control your own fate in each and every circumstance.  As a result, (and I have been guilty of this myself) you are susceptible to impulse reactions and embroiled emotions based on your then-existing state-of-mind.  70 percent of people get ahead at some point in their stay at a casino, but a mind-blowing 90 percent of that 70 percent give the money back.  In other words, only seven people in 100 walk out of the casino a winner. Deductive reasoning follows that each patron is susceptible to too much volume of “play” where the house has a decided edge, and that’s an uphill run the casino wants you to have face time and again.  Good luck sidestepping the landmines and avoiding the shrapnel as you brace for the steep incline necessary in order to advance and secure that beachhead until the rest of the troops arrive.

I used to bet every race when I would go to the track.  I was a speed handicapper and I loved the rapid fire approach to betting and beating the races. However, that approach was bludgeoning my wallet to a bloody pulp.  While driving home, I would do an mental autopsy on those despairing days of anguish and assess why I won the races I did, but perhaps even more importantly, I would figure out why I lost so many of the races that didn’t pan out.  I learned from all my evidence-gathering that I needed to focus more on quality and less on quality.  The bottom line with all of this hyperbole is that you need to bet more on fewer races than betting less on more races, just to have action.  “Who to bet” and “how to bet” are two completely different animals. If you slow down and spend more time isolating a few horses a day, it’s much easier to build your day around wagering on those horses you like properly (vertically or horizontally) and in the process you will cash many more tickets of value.  Given this framework, you can control your own fate much better in horse racing than you can in a casino; that’s why I love betting on horses.

Breeders’ Cup tables at the Jockey Club go on sale Thursday, October 4th and they are $50 in cost. A limited group of special seats are available in the Turf Club for $15. The purchase of a Breeders’ Cup table provides a group of up to four people a tremendous view of all the Breeders’ Cup races for both Friday, November 2nd and Saturday, November 3rd and comes with table service to boot.  Call the Sonoma County Jockey Club at 707-524-6340 for all the details.

Like what you’re reading? Every week I post a racing-related article to The Grapevine, the official Blog of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.  Visit for news and updates on all the events surrounding the Sonoma County Fair.  You can also reach me directly at


My venture north of the border in last week’s Woodbine Mile proved fruitless.  Hats off to Oscar Performance for his commanding front-running performance in taking care of a talented field of runners.  One would think that Oscar Performance will be one of the ones talked about on Breeders’ Cup weekend, whether it be the Breeders’ Cup Mile or Turf that his connections decide he partake in.  After all, ‘Oscar was favored in the Arlington Million before being eased in that race.  The Arlington Million winner, Robert Bruce, looks like a real nice runner for Chad Brown and the Chilean-bred should be a real handful at Churchill as well. Local Canadian Mr Havercamp ran a credible race in the Woodbine Mile, chasing the winner in vain throughout who sullied his unblemished record over the Woodbine sod.  As talked about in last week’s preview, Mr Havercamp was the value horse in the race, so hopefully some of you were able to string him together with the winner in exactas or trifectas with Oscar Performance and able to greet the cashier in the process.


Just six weeks until Breeders’ Cup weekend from Churchill Downs.  Let’s take a look at the feature race this weekend, the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby from Parx Racing where three-year-olds will do battle against one another for the very last time.


Parx Racing-Race 11

The Pennsylvania Derby (Grade I)

1 & 1/8 Miles on Dirt for 3 y/o’s

Purse: $1,000,000

Post Time: : PST


#8 McKinzie is the 5/2 chalk and deservedly so.  McKinzie has run four races in his life and all of them have been legitimate efforts.  He was sidelined by a minor injury after playing bumper cars with Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe and this will be his comeback try for Bob Baffert.  Mike Smith is in the irons so I’m predicting an underlay with him and he should be sent off somewhere in the 8/5 or 9/5 area when gates fly back.  McKinzie will be a factor from start to finish but he must ship for the first time and clearly isn’t being handed this purse on a silver platter –there are others in this race who could give him some problems.  Baffert won this race in 2014 with Bayern and last year with West Coast.


Second-choice is #2 Hofburg at 3/1 on the morning line.  Bill Mott puts the Blinkers on the Tapit colt and this will be his first start in about nine weeks time.  Hofburg pasted a bunch of junior varsity types at 25-cents on the dollar in the Curlin at Saratoga, thus this will once again be a big step up the class ladder.  Hofburg might prove best in this race, but I’ve never been a “true believer” in him and at the expected odds, I just can’t live with him at this price when he’s 0-for-3 in Grade 1’s.  He can get a piece, but he’s just no value and so he’s not for me.


I do like #10 Bravazo at 6/1 to hit the ticket.  I’ve been tough on this colt for a very long time but the truth is that he’s a blue-collar type runner that has does have some talent and he usually finds his way into the equation on some level.  Bravazo hasn’t won a race since February so it’s tough to get too hot and bothered at the prospect of him greeting the cameraman on Saturday. Yet Bravazo draws well and horses typically enjoy rallying wide over this surface (e.g. see the last running line comment for #6 Axelrod).  Bravazo will just keep coming and so he’s a must-use underneath but I would hesitate putting him in the top spot since he couldn’t go by with a dream trip in the Preakness.


Speaking of #6 Axelrod at 5/1, I’m just a bit concerned that he might have a case of sea legs due to all the shipping back and forth from California.  He’s in good form right now, but let’s not forget he was offered for $50,000 last August and stepping up from Grade 3’s into Grade 1’s is a big jump.  I’ll try and beat him as well.


#3 Instilled Regard looks like excellent value at 15/1 on the line and he’s on my party invite list.  He’s been unseen since a fourth place finish in the Kentucky Derby where he had a tough trip in stop-and-go traffic before rallying for fourth.  The talent is there and he’s no stranger to Grade 1 waters.  This is a first-time Chad Brown entry and that’s always worth extra consideration.  Jose Ortiz rode Oscar Performance to a Grade 1 victory in the Woodbine Mile last Saturday and was the leading rider at the Kentucky Downs meeting with nine wins in 31 starts.  Instilled Regard is without question the value horse in the Pennsylvania Derby.


My “Core Belief” is that Bob Baffert will have McKinzie ready to go on Saturday but Instilled Regard and Bravazo should be coming through the lane at him with some real purpose.


Selections:  8-3-10-2 in the Pennsylvania Derby.


***Bonus Coverage***

Parx Racing Race 8. The Pa. Derby Champion $150,000


I selected #2 Sunny Ridge (8/1) in the Woodward and he broke well before folding up like a cheap suit in the drive.  This is a much more realistic spot for him and if I was willing to endorse him at near 8/1 in a Grade I, I have to come back with him at the same odds appraisal in a listed Stakes race.  He draws well and Irad Ortiz sticks around.  Go to the window on him with a few bucks in your hand in the hopes of a bounce back effort.  Should he fail to fire here, rest assured I’ve got the ballpoint pen in hand and will be ready to sign the divorce papers with him.