PA Pony Roundup: Pennsylvania Derby Set for Sept. 25 at Parx

Posted By Kevin Shelly on September 15, 2021

On Sept. 25th, Parx Racing at Parx Casino hosts two top graded events, the Pennsylvania Derby and the Cotillion Stakes, and additional stakes races on turf and dirt.

The races, which begin at 12:05 p.m., are:

  • $1,000,000 Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby – 3-Year-Olds – 1-1/8 miles – Dirt
  • $1,000,000 Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes – 3-Year-Old Fillies – 1-1/16 miles – Dirt
  • $300,000 Grade 2 Gallant Bob Stakes – 3-Year-Olds – 6 Furlongs – Dirt
  • $300,000 Grade 3 Turf Monster – 3&up – 5 Furlongs – Turf
  • Dr. James Penny Memorial $200,000 Grade 3 – F&M 3 & up – 1-1/16 miles – Turf
  • Greenwood Cup $200,000 Grade 3  – 3 & up – 1-1/2 miles – Dirt
  • $200,000 Parx Dirt Mile – 3&up – 1 Mile – Dirt
  • Plum Pretty Stakes (PA BREDS) $200,000  – F&M 3 & up – 1-1/16 miles – Dirt
  • $200,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap (PA BREDS) – 3 & up – 1-1/16 miles – Dirt

Veteran paddock handicapper Jessica Paquette is joining Parx track announcer Chris Griffin on the broadcast and social media.

She is the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation‘s communication director and previously handicapped and broadcast for Colonial Downs and Suffolk Downs.

Parx Racing launches mobile app

You can follow Griffin on Twitter @Inthegrandstand to play a Derby word of the day contest with a reward of a water bottle and T-shirt.

Meanwhile, Parx has a new mobile app for Apple and Android users. There are already several online horse betting options in PA.

Pennsylvania Derby could feature Medina Spirit racing

Entries will be taken for the Pennsylvania Derby Day card on Monday, Sept. 20. It will be the 41st running.

It is often a step toward the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.

There is speculation Medina Spirit, the horse which won the Kentucky Derby, might be an entry though he remains under a cloud of suspicion, as does his trainer, Bob Baffert.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, a banned substance on race day in Kentucky. His Derby victory remains the subject of a court battle.

The 3-year-old, owned by Zedan Racing Stables, won the Shared Belief Stakes at California’s Del Mar in late August with a time of 1:37.29 and a lead of 1 1/4 lengths.

Baffert recently told BloodHorse: “I’m looking at the Pennsylvania Derby, maybe as an option. Do I give him a race here? I’m going to let him tell me, the horse will let me know.”

Hot Rod Charlie, third in the Derby, is also a possibility.

Horse racing deaths at Parx

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported grim numbers for horse deaths at Parx during the first six months of the year.

The news organization said PA Department of Agriculture stats show 31 horses have died. The Ag Department and the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission oversee racing.

According to the Inquirer account, all but three horses were put down, most often following an injury.

In 2019, the last full year of racing before COVID-19 shutdowns had 59 horse deaths. Back in 2014, the news organization reported there were 85 horse deaths at Parx.

An Inquirer report published in March found that since 2010 half of the more than 1,400 thoroughbred fatalities in the state have been at Parx.

Parx did not respond to a request for comment to the Inquirer.

Horse racing death in PA

But state Agriculture Department spokeswoman Shanon Powers spoke. She said, “The billions of dollars provided to the horse racing industry have not reduced the number of horse deaths at tracks.”

She added that the state horse racing commission “is working diligently to encourage all involved in the industry to examine potential causes of fatalities with diligence and open minds.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has tried and failed in two successive years to redirect the casino slot revenue, which props up PA horse racing. His proposal to redirect the revenue to state university students found no real traction, even within his own party, the Democrats.

This spring PlayPennsylvania reported on what might best be characterized as a drug raid at Parx, which found  a significant amount of contraband. Horses are routinely managed via numerous drugs, approved drugs given by veterinarians.

But improper doping is commonplace in racing.

Veteran Parx trainer Richard Vega was suspended.

Powers said Thursday Vega was suspended for 14 months for possession of syringes, needles, and foreign substances: vitamins and therapeutic medications.

Presque Isle Downs hosting two big races in September

Presque Isle Downs holds two stakes races on Sept. 13, the Finest City for two-year-old fillies and the Mark McDermott, both $100,000 races. Post time is 4:45 p.m.

Harrah’s celebrated 15 years of racing

Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack just celebrated its 15th anniversary of racing on Sept. 10.

The building of the track ushered the way for the casino.

Lead photo: Medina Spirit might race in the Pennsylvania Derby (Nick Wass/AP)

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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