09/24/2016 8:01PM

Connect outshines big-name stars in Pennsylvania Derby

Debra Roma
Connect, ridden by Javier Castellano, scores a 10-1 upset in the Pennsylvania Derby.

BENSALEM, Pa. - The 12-horse field that went postward in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Saturday was comprised of horses at varying stages of their careers.

Nyquist and Exaggerator had won on the biggest nationals stages. Gun Runner and Cupid had won important races but not at this level of competition. Others were in search of their first graded scores.

Connect fell into the latter group, but when the dust cleared he had not only padded his resume but had done it in a style which suggests we will be seeing him in major races from now on.

Owned by Paul Pompa Jr. and trained by Chad Brown, Connect was making only his sixth career start. He had finished a well-beaten sixth in the Travers, his graded stakes debut, but had come out of that race ill.

"He had a pretty significant lung infection," Brown said by phone from Belmont Park. "We cleaned that up and he came back to form today."

Connect was given a ground-saving ride in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby by Javier Castellano, and held off Gun Runner through the final furlong to win by a half-length. It was four lengths back to Wild About Deb in third.

Awesome Slew hopped out to a clear early lead in the $1.25 million Derby with Cupid galloping along behind him, several lengths ahead of Nyquist, who was third, and Gun Runner, in fourth.

:: Enjoy news and analysis from DRF? Get handicapping analysis, real-time coverage, special reports, and charts. Unlock access with DRF Plus.

The fractions were a realistic 23.01 seconds, 47.35, and 1:11.81.

On the far turn, Cupid began to flatten out while Nyquist made a three-wide move after Awesome Slew. Gun Runner commenced his bid four wide and Connect was making progress along the inside.

Entering the stretch, Nyquist challenged for the lead while Connect made a quick move and slipped through inside horses. He had the lead at the furlong pole with Gun Runner challenging from the center of the track. They stayed that way to the wire.

"I was confident in the stretch," Castellano said. "I had a lot of horse and didn't think the other horse was going to get by."

Connect paid $23.20 as fifth choice in the race. His final time was 1:50.20.

Nyquist couldn't sustain his drive in the stretch and came out on the wrong end of a four-horse photo for third, finishing sixth.

"He was in a perfect spot," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "Mario [Gutierrez] said he was kind of struggling with the track but he had a good trip and we have no excuses. We'll take him home and talk about what we should do next."

Exaggerator made a move outside horses nearing the far turn but never reached contention and finished seventh, seven lengths behind Nyquist. My Man sam, Brown's other horse in the race, finished fourth, Awesome Slew held on for fifth, and Cupid dropped back to eighth.

Connect, a son of Curlin, is now 4 for 6 in his career. After losing his career debut at Aqueduct last December, he won three races in a row - a Belmont maiden race in May, a Belmont allowance in June, and the restricted Curlin Stakes early in the Saratoga meet.

"The Travers is the only race where he hasn't fired," Brown said. "We have always have had a lot of confidence in this horse. I'm proud of him. I mean I wouldn't have gone in predicting that we would win against Gun Runner and Nyquist. Those are very tough horses. But I'm not surprised either. He's a big, well-bred horse. Really easy to like."

Brown said he did not have any immediate plans for Connect, as he had been focusing solely on this race.

"I'd like to give credit to my team and also to Mr. Pompa, who once we got him healthy wanted to run in this race," Brown said.


TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Castellano  is truly one of the best jockeys in racing history and put his horse in a perfect spot to win this race. Very well done!
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago

I am the reigning idiot for leaving a Brown/Castellano horse out of the last leg of the Pick 4. I should have just pressed "All" in the last leg instead of just the 1,2, 5, 7,9, 10, & 12. 

Somebody... please just remind me to add another $3.00 for each horse in the last leg... as that's all it would have cost with a.) 1,5,7 b.) w/5, c.) w/5 d.) w/1,2,5,7,9,10,12.   I had 2 of these $.50 tickets (that only cost $10.50 each), and; 3 others with the 1, 7, 9.

Like I said, I need my head examined for leaving out Castellano/Chad for any race.  

Gary Moser More than 1 year ago
Does anyone know what the superfecta paid?
realgooddogtoo More than 1 year ago
Gun Runner was the best horse in the race, but he had to go wide and it cost him the race, but you can't take the credit away from Connect, the rider made all the right move. Exaggerator proved that he's just a superior mud runner.
Wayne Haehner More than 1 year ago
Gun Runner was intentionally steered wide to avoid the famous bias against the inside part of the track--he did the right thing--the inside is not the place to be 95/100 times....so the winner was much the best racing down inside
Mark Howell More than 1 year ago
completely agree
Wayne Crimi More than 1 year ago
The inside at PARX was fine yesterday.  Watch all the races. Gun Runner was clearly best. 
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Lasix defeated the two star attractions.  Connect moves up with drug handicapping
VanSavant More than 1 year ago
You sir, appear to be trolling.  And not very well.
William Taylor More than 1 year ago
Just innuendo with no proof or facts. Dangerous and ill informed statements belong in the same realm as Trump.
The fact is that Lasix is legal and is a diuretic which helps prevent pulmonary bleeding that occurs 
Joe Church More than 1 year ago
So why do all the drug trainers go to parx?
William Taylor More than 1 year ago
All? Shug? a drug trainer? Highly dubious lumping all in a general statement like that.
Carl Cuminale More than 1 year ago
This crop crop of three year olds is very deep.