Headed by unbeaten champion filly Songbird and the top three finishers from the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist, Exaggerator and Gun Runner, nominations closed September 10 for the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, a pair of high-stakes races with championship implications to be run at Parx Racing on Saturday, September 24.
The blockbuster program will be supported by three other stakes – the Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob for 3-year-old sprinters; the $150,000 Pennsylvania Derby Champion for 3-year-olds that honors 2015 Pennsylvania Derby winner Frosted; and the $100,000 Alphabet Soup for statebred turf routers.
No fewer than five Grade 1 winners are probable for the 50th running of the $1 million Cotillion, in which Fox Hill Farm's Songbird, who has won all 10 of her starts by better than 54 lengths, is expected to continue her pursuit of perfection against Kentucky Oaks winner and local heroine Cathryn Sophia, Acorn winner Carina Mia, Mother Goose winner Off the Tracks, and Test upsetter Paola Queen.
Songbird breezed five furlongs in a bullet 58.80 seconds at Santa Anita on Sunday, her third workout since a scintillating seven-length triumph in the Alabama Stakes. The Eclipse Award-winning daughter of Medaglia d'Oro is expected to work a half-mile this weekend before shipping to Philadelphia.
Cathryn Sophia, who vaulted to prominence winning her career debut at Parx Racing by 12 ¾ lengths last October, tuned up for the Cotillion with a dominant victory in the Princess of Sylmar Stakes.
The 40th running of the Pennsylvania Derby will be Round 6 between 2015 champion 2-year-old Nyquist and Exaggerator, who have combined to win eight Grade 1 titles. Should they both run, the purse increases from $1 million to $1.25 million by virtue of having the winners of two Triple Crown races in the gate. Nyquist holds a 3-2 edge, including wins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby, but comes off losses to his nemesis in sloppy editions of the Preakness and Haskell Invitational.
Among the other probables are multiple graded stakes winner Gun Runner, third in the Kentucky Derby and the Travers; and three-time Grade 2 winner Cupid, whose trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, won the 2014 renewal with subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern.
Among those nominated to the six-furlong Gallant Bob is Jazzy Times, who was scratched from the King's Bishop due to a minor foot issue, and has since trained sharply in California for Baffert.
Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Monday, September 19.
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