09/17/2013 1:18PM

Dick Jerardi: Pennsylvania Derby card features Parx-record $3 million in purses

Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo
Speak Logistics (left), second to Edge of Reality in the Smarty Jones earlier this month, may offer good value in the Pennsylvania Derby.

They have been racing at Parx (formerly Keystone and Philadelphia Park) for more than four decades. Saturday marks the best card in the history of the racetrack.

There will be $3 million in purses on the line over 12 races, $2.3 million in graded stakes, including a pair of $1 million stakes, the Grade 1 Cotillion and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.

Those two races and the Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob will be broadcast on a live television show (Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia) from 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern. The show will be anchored by Laffit Pincay of NBC and HRTV. The full card will also be streamed live on DRF.com.

There are 32 horses in the three graded stakes. It could have been more. The Gallant Bob was oversubscribed by two horses and has a field of 14.

The other nine races have purses of $730,000. Like the racing office did on Owners’ Day on Sept. 7, it bumped up the purses dramatically.

[MID-ATLANTIC RACING: Complete DRF coverage, weekly video previews]

There are two $100,000 allowance races, a $96,000 first-level allowance, a $92,000 maiden race for 2-year-old fillies, the $75,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap, and a $75,000 starter handicap. The card begins with a $16,000 claiming race that has a $72,000 purse.

The racing office was obviously hoping to get the brilliant Pennsylvania-bred filly Princess of Sylmar for the Cotillion. But she is scheduled to make her final start of 2013 against Royal Delta in the Sept. 28 Beldame at Belmont Park. What the Cotillion does have is Close Hatches, the last horse to beat Princess of Sylmar, and Sweet Lulu, the unbeaten winner of the Test Stakes.

Obviously, Kentucky Derby winner Orb or Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice would have given the Pennsylvania Derby some more juice, but they await the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

What the Pennsylvania Derby did get is a Travers rematch. When track executives moved the race off Labor Day a few years ago, it was with this exact scenario in mind. They got it last year with Alpha and Golden Ticket after their Travers dead heat. They get it again this year with Will Take Charge and Moreno, a nose apart in the Travers.

If you are looking for a live longshot in the Pa. Derby, consider Speak Logistics. The colt got a career-best 101 Beyer when just missing in the Smarty Jones Stakes on Labor Day at Parx.

[PENNSYLVANIA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full Parx card live]

The Gallant Bob, named after the great sprinter of the 1970s, might be one of most difficult handicapping propositions of 2013. The race is filled with speed, so it could be a pace meltdown with some horse rallying from way back to win it. Or one of the speed horses could outrun the other speed and eliminate all the chasers in the first 50 yards.

By the way, Gallant Bob could have been claimed for $12,500 when he won the first start of his career on July 15, 1974 at old Liberty Bell Park, now the site of the massive Franklin Mills Mall, just a few miles across the city line from Parx. Gallant Bob, who raced all over the East but was definitely a Keystone horse, won 23 races and nearly $500,000 when that was big money.

Saturday, it is really, really big money at Parx Racing, with Hall of Fame trainers Wayne Lukas and Bill Mott having the likely favorites in the $1 million races and Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer with horses in all three of the major stakes.

De Francis Dash at Laurel Park

There are significant races all over the Mid-Atlantic Saturday. After its meet opens Thursday, Laurel Park rolls out the $350,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at six furlongs on dirt and six $100,000 grass stakes.

Four De Francis winners have gone on to win the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter – Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997), and Thor’s Echo (2006).

Ramon Dominguez, who won 1,012 races on the Maryland circuit in the early 2000s, will make a special appearance Saturday.

◗ William Otero, the leading rider at Penn National in 2004, 2008, and 2009, won career race No. 2,000 on Sept. 5. Otero, 38, won the second race that night on Burst Away, the 7-5 favorite in a starter allowance.

◗ Since April 1, owner Robert Cole is 14 for 34 at Charles Town. Since 2000, Cole has won 1,211 races at various Mid-Atlantic tracks.

◗ The last day of the Delaware Park meeting will now be Wednesday, Oct. 9, a makeup day for the Aug. 14 card that was canceled because of weather.