Making his first start in two months, Coal Front won a stretch long duel with Diamond King and took the $153,500 Parx Dirt Mile for trainer Todd Pletcher and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith Saturday at Parx Racing.
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, Coal Front surged past 2-1 second choice Diamond King and jockey Jose Ortiz as the two horses ran nearly as a team the entire length of the stretch. Coal Front, on the inside, dug down and would not allow his rival to pass.
Owned by Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, Coal Front won by three quarters of a length and was timed in 1:37.53. The 5-year-old son of Stay Thirsty was making his first start since July 20 when third in the Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park.
Forewarned, last seen running off the board in the Whitney and Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, was 1 1/4 lengths behind Diamond King in third.
Winning jockey Mike Smith: “He was very aggressive leaving there. He was OK tracking, he jumped like a rabbit leaving there and I pretty much just stayed out of his way. I was off the rail a little bit. You don't have to be on top of it all the way around there I guess. On days like today it seems like it gets a little fairer. Sometimes it will play an outside bias, but today it seems to be playing both ways, it's all right.”
On stretch duel with Diamond King: “I had horse, he doesn't care to be down in there (inside). He'd probably would have preferred to be out, but I wasn't given that opportunity, so he still ran good.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz (Diamond King, second): Second best. The other horse just dug in. My horse ran a hell of a race. No complains and no excuse, just second best. You could see, those two horses went to the rail and finished. People pay a lot of attention to that (any perceived outside track bias) but that was back in the day. The track changed a lot. What you saw there were the two best horses down on the rail. Where were the horses on the outside here? If a trainer, owner want me to stay off it I do but if I'm sitting there are two guys in front of me and they open up and I have the opportunity to go through I'm going to take it.”
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