08/31/2016 12:16PM

Parx presents major stakes, Festival of Racing during September, October

Barbara D. Livingston
Nyquist is pointing to the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24.

Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia, which reopens Saturday following a 3 1/2-week hiatus, will run six of its seven graded stakes over the next three weeks and then hold its second Festival of Racing.

“We have a big two months ahead of us,” said Sam Elliott, the track’s director of racing.

The biggest day of the year at Parx will be Sept. 24, when the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 1 Cotillion share a card. Those two million-dollar races will be supported by the Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds; the $150,000 Pennsylvania Derby Champion, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up that will honor Frosted, the winner of last year’s Pennsylvania Derby; and the $100,000 Alphabet Soup Stakes for statebreds.

“We are going to do everything we can to make it a high-quality day,” Elliott said. “We are going to have the best supporting card we possibly can. I want it to be a special day.

Elliott’s goal is to have the Pennsylvania Derby kicked up to a Grade 1. Last year, he sat in on the graded stakes committee’s meeting, which he thought was instructive.

“It became clear what I had to do,” Elliott said. “We need as many Grade 1 winners as humanly possible to run in our race. It’s something we have been continually working on throughout the year.”

Five-time Grade 1 winner Nyquist, who is training at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in California, is pointing to the Pennsylvania Derby, as is three-time Grade 1 winner Exaggerator, who will be trying to rebound from his 11th-place finish in last weekend’s Travers.

Others considering the Derby at this early juncture include Cupid, a three-time Grade 2 winner this year, and Gun Runner, the third-place finisher in the Travers, according to Elliott.

The queen of the 3-year-old filly division, Songbird, is expected for the Cotillion.

“We just have to get lucky,” Elliott said. “There is still a ways to go.”

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An owner-trainer bonus structure is written into the conditions of the Pennsylvania Derby. The owner and trainer of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell Invitational, and Travers will each receive a $50,000 bonus if their horses start in the Pennsylvania Derby.

If Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist starts, his connections will therefore receive a bonus of $100,000. Preakness and Haskell winner Exaggerator is eligible for a $200,000 bonus. Although trainer Bob Baffert has said that Travers hero Arrogate will not be coming to the Pennsylvania Derby, if he does, he would receive a $100,000 bonus.

Elliott recently boosted the purse of the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby if the winners of two legs of the Triple Crown start. If both Nyquist and Exaggerator are in the gate, the purse of the race will be $1.25 million.

If all three winners of the Triple Crown races were to start, the purse would be $1.5 million. But that is a moot point since Belmont Stakes winner Creator is finished for the year.

The last two runnings of the Pennsylvania Derby have been won by Frosted and Bayern. Frosted had won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial before his Pennsylvania Derby victory and has since won the Grade 1 Met Mile and Grade 1 Whitney. Bayern won the Grade 1 Haskell before his Pennsylvania Derby score and in his next start won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

California Chrome finished sixth behind Bayern in the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby.

Parx will run six stakes this Saturday and four more on Monday.

Saturday is Pennsylvania’s Day at the Races and will feature five $100,000 stakes for statebreds. The featured race will be the newly created $150,000 Princess of Sylmar, an open stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia will prep for the Cotillion in the one-mile race.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Smarty Jones, the local Pennsylvania Derby prep, will headline the Labor Day card. According to track officials, the possible starters include Abiding Star, Awesome Slew, Discreet Lover, Gettysburg, Name Changer, Sticksstatelydude, Titanium Heart, Uncle Vinny, and Wild About Deb.

The other Monday stakes are the Grade 3, $300,000 Turf Monster, the $200,000 Turf Amazon, and the $200,000 Greenwood Cup. The Turf Monster and Turf Amazon are five-furlong turf sprints, and the Greenwood Cup is 1 1/2 miles on the main track.

The elite turf sprinter Lady Shipman is expected for the Turf Amazon.

The Festival of Racing will be slightly different from a year ago. Last year, purses were scheduled to be doubled for an eight-week period. Unfortunately, it was cut short due to an equine herpesvirus quarantine at Parx.

This year, the festival will be held Oct. 1-25. The purses at Parx are averaging $300,000 per day but will be increased about 50 percent for the festival and will average between $450,000 and $470,000 a day, according to Elliott.

“Last year, we doubled our purses from $240,000 a day to around $500,000,” Elliott said. “Our average daily purses are up this year because we have trimmed back our racing days from 199 last year to 162.”

Elliott expects large, competitive fields during the festival.

“Our goal for the festival is to have higher-quality racing and higher business,” Elliott said.

Arroyo returns to Parx

Angel Arroyo, the leading jockey by wins and purse earnings at Parx in 2012 before shifting his tack to New York, will resume riding at Parx beginning Saturday.

Arroyo has four mounts on the Saturday card. His new agent will be Jose Morales Jr.

Arroyo, a 29-year-old native of Panama, has ridden in the United States since 2007. He has 878 career wins and purse earnings of $32.8 million. This year, Arroyo has 35 wins from 501 mounts.

During his time in New York, Arroyo won the Grade 3 Excelsior and Empire Classic aboard Effinex and the Grade 3 Go for Wand on Classic Point.