Parx Racing returned from its two and a half week break with two stakes on the Saturday program. The Grade 3 $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for three year-olds went convincingly to Axelrod, while Aztec Sense dominated in winning the $100,000 Sal DeBunda PTHA President's Cup.
Coming off a 12-1 upset victory in the G3 Indiana Derby, Slam Dunk Racing's Axelrod drew the outside gate in a field of eight in the Smarty Jones Stakes. Expected to run from off the pace under Joe Bravo, Axelrod got away to an uneventful start, able to move over a couple of paths early, sitting fifth and three wide into the first turn.
Axelrod actually picked up a spot moving to the backstretch and had terrific positon, sitting fourth behind three front runners who were all racing across the track about two and a half lengths ahead. As the three leaders continued to battle it out up front, Bravo sat patiently behind them as they passed the half mile pole and headed for the far turn. Nearing the quarter pole, though, he suddenly found himself in an awkward spot.
Wait for It made a sudden move to the outside of Axelrod midway on the final turn, leaving him with nowhere to go. Bravo had no choice but to wait for Wait for It to clear and then was forced to swing Axelrod five wide at the head of the stretch.
Straightened away and now in the clear, the son of Warrior's Reward absolutely exploded. Axelrod charged past the four horses in front of him in a blink and quickly began to draw away. In front past the eighth pole, he eagerly pulled away and cruised under the wire a thoroughly convincing four lengths in front. Trained by Michael McCarthy, the late developing Axelrod went off at 4-1 and paid $10.00 to win. He finished the one mile and one sixteenth over a fast track in 1:45.34.
The supporting feature was the $100,000 Sal DeBunda PTHA President's Cup and as $100K stakes go, it could not have been much easier for Joe Besecker's Aztec Sense. Claimed for $12,500 by trainer Jorge Navarro back in August of 2017, the now five year-old gelded son of Street Sense has since won six of seven races, including five in a row and two stakes. Breaking from the inside gate in the field of five, Aztec Sense broke alongside Two Weeks Off and winning jockey Kendrick Carmouche was content from the outset to concede the lead, easing outside to sit a stalking trip and looking like he could take command at any moment. Racing through a quarter in 24.12 and a 48.42 half mile, that moment came entering the far turn. Carmouche nudged Aztec Sense to go on, he took the lead under nothing more than a hand ride and never appeared fully extended, moving away to a three length lead with a furlong to go. Wrapped up for most of the final sixteenth, he came home an official three and a half lengths in front, paid $3.40 to win as the public's 3-5 choice and covered the nine furlongs in an effortless 1:51.64.
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