08/31/2008 11:00PM

Pennsylvania Derby a 14-horse scramble


A $1 million race for 3-year-olds with a full field and no standout. Sound familiar?

No, they're not running the Travers again. But on paper, Monday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park has a lot in common with the recently run Travers at Saratoga. Trainer Eoin Harty hopes those similarities continue on the track.

Harty won the Travers with Colonel John, a son of Tiznow. Monday, Harty sends out Tiz Now Tiz Then, a 3-year-old son of Tiznow, in the Pennsylvania Derby, a race that drew a competitive field of 14. First post on the 11-race card is 12:05 p.m., with the Pennsylvania Derby going as race 10 at approximately 5:30. The card also features the $250,000 Turf Monster Handicap at five furlongs.

After losing his first six starts, Tiz Now Tiz Then has won 3 of his last 4, including the Iowa Derby. Most recently, Tiz Now Tiz Then finished third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, a race in which he made the lead in upper stretch only to be passed by Macho Again and Pyro. Miguel Mena rode Tiz Now Tiz Then that day and will be back aboard on Monday from post 4.

"I felt he moved a little soon, but I think he realized he had [Macho Again] in the pocket and thought if he didn't go then he wasn't going to get there," Harty said Saturday in Saratoga. "It was a good race."

Tiz Now Tiz Then has worked three times since the Jim Dandy, including a strong six-furlong move in 1:12.45 over Saratoga's main track on Aug. 22.

"He's usually not a very good workhorse, but his three works since he ran have been very good," Harty said.

Tiz Now Tiz Then figures to be one of several horses vying for a spot in the second or third flight behind the speed of Wishful Tomcat, Two Step Salsa, and potentially Acai.

"It looks like 90 percent of the field has a similar style of running," Harty said. "You're going to get two horses stacked up on the lead and it's going to look like they're coming out of Daytona on Turn 4 right behind them."

Breaking from post 2, Ready Set figures to get a good ground-saving trip in that second or third flight. Ready Set, from the same connections that campaigned Barbaro, is coming off a head victory in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer on Aug. 2. Trainer Michael Matz said Ready Set has just begun putting things together after a difficult winter in south Florida.

"If he keeps his mind on his business, he should run a nice race," Matz said. "The only thing that's going to help that is maturity and experience. Who knows - with 14 horses, what can happen? If there is something that can happen, he'll probably find it. He's always showed us he's got a lot of ability."

Smooth Air was made the lukewarm 7-2 favorite and will break from post 6. Foot issues have kept Smooth Air from the races since he won the May 31 Ohio Derby, but trainer Bennie Stutts has raved over the colt's last three workouts.

"Three months in between races, that is something you've got to consider, but you can't ask a horse to work any better than he's worked," Stutts said Saturday morning from Philadelphia Park.

Two Step Salsa, who finished a head in front of Colonel John in the Swaps, could play out as the main speed under Martin Pedroza. This will be his first start on dirt.

You and I Forever got beat a neck by Mambo in Seattle in the Henry Walton Stakes at Saratoga on July 27. Mambo in Seattle came back to lose the Travers by a nose.

"That was encouraging," said You and I Forever's trainer, Bill Mott, who won the 1998 Pennsylvania Derby with Rock and Roll.

Mott wasn't encouraged to have drawn post 14, but was heartened to learn that Sun King won the 2005 Pennsylvania Derby from that post.

"That makes me feel a little better," said Mott, who also runs Haskell fourth-place finisher Alaazo.

After watching Atoned finished second in six stakes races from last September to July, trainer Todd Pletcher hoped the addition of blinkers would help for the Haskell. They didn't, as he got beat 39 lengths. Pletcher is taking them back off for the Pennsylvania Derby.

Stones River, Only for Now, Wishful Tomcat, Acai, and Power Game have combined to win their last 13 starts. Numaany, winner of a Saratoga allowance last out, and Anak Nakal, who dead-heated for third in the Belmont, complete the field.

Turf Monster: Heros Reward heads tough field

The Turf Monster, which drew a field of 12, looks just as competitive as the Pennsylvania Derby. Heros Reward, who finished second in this race last year, rates a slight edge coming off three consecutive victories.

However, Heros Reward breaks from post 12 and carries top weight of 124 pounds, a concession of four to 10 pounds to the field.

His chief rivals figure to be Blue Sailor, True to Tradition, Salute the Count, and Mobo.