09/08/2015 12:31PM

Parx: Festival so far produces fireworks

Taylor Ejdys/Equi-Photo
Social Inclusion wins his first start for trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero by 11 3/4 lengths.

The first two weeks of the Parx Fall Festival have featured some strong performances, and rapidly approaching is the Sept. 19 highlight of the meet, a five-stakes card topped by the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 1 Cotillion.

So far, we have seen Social Inclusion score by 11 3/4 lengths in his debut for local trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero in a second-level optional-claiming race. That race should set him up for the $150,000 Bayern Stakes on the Pa. Derby undercard.

Stonetastic’s powerful 15 3/4-length romp over third-level company on Sept. 1 served as a reminder that she will play a major role in the filly-and-mare sprint division this fall.

On Monday, Pure Sensation and Mongolian Saturday put on a show, battling the length of the stretch in the $300,000 Turf Monster, with the former winning a head bob on the wire. In the day’s other stakes, Neck ’n Neck showed his class in the $200,000 Greenwood Cup and Richies Sweetheart put her dazzling speed on display in the $200,000 Turf Amazon.

This Saturday a field of eight turf runners will square off in the $200,000 Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President’s Cup at 1 1/8 miles. Heart to Heart, winner of the Grade 3 Oceanport on Haskell Day at Monmouth, looks like a tepid favorite.

“The festival has done what it is intended to do, raise the profile of Parx and improve the quality of racing,” said Sam Elliott, the Parx director of racing.

While handle has not jumped markedly, Joe Wilson, the track’s chief operating officer, said it is too early to judge the results.

“This is an odd year because of how the calendar falls,” he said. “We have been up against both Saratoga and Del Mar. We had a two-week break in August this year. Next year we will have a three-week break and the festival will not go up against either of those tracks. We will have a better idea of how the festival is doing business-wise in several weeks.”

The Pennsylvania Derby and the Cotillion fields will be drawn this coming Monday.

Elliott has been in steady contact with Bob Baffert regarding American Pharoah, but because of the calendar, his participation seems unlikley.

Last year, when Labor Day fell on Sept. 1, there were four weeks between the Travers and Pa. Derby, and Bayern was able to run in the Haskell, Travers, and Pennsylvania Derby. This year there is only a three-week separation between the Travers and Pa. Derby.

“Bob has told me that with an extra week he could probably do it,” said Elliott. “I am still working everyone on the nomination list.”

Under the conditions of the Pennsylvania Derby, Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat each would receive participation bonuses of $200,000 in addition to running for a $1 million purse.

Two horses, who did race in the Travers – Upstart and Frosted – are under consideration for the Pennsylvania Derby depending how they continue to train. Considered likely for the race, according to Elliott, are Gimme Da Lute, trained by Baffert; West Virginia Derby winner Madefromlucky; Tale of Verve, who is scheduled to arrive at Parx this Wednesday; and Divining Rod, Mr. Z, Iron Fist, Souper Colossal, War Story, and Battle Midway.

Smarty Jones winner Island Town, trained by Ian Wilkes, is possible for the race.

The 3-year-old filly division has been wide open all year, with the major races being spread around between a number of horses.

According to Elliott, the Cotillion probables are Alabama winner Embellish the Lace; Delaware Oaks winner Calamity Kate; Acorn and Coaching Club Oaks winner Curalina; Fair Grounds Oaks winner I’m a Chatterbox; Monmouth Oaks winner Delightful Joy; and last year’s 2-year-old filly champion, Take Charge Brandi.

The field may also include Tara’s Tango, Wonder Gal, White Clover, and Pangburn.

“I would think the Cotillion will have a large say in the 3-year-old filly championship picture,” Elliott said.