09/23/2017 8:21PM

West Coast makes Pennsylvania Derby second G1 win of season

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Barbara D. Livingston
West Coast paid $3.80 to win the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Saturday.

BENSALEM, Pa. - West Coast took another step forward Saturday at Parx Racing, leaving his Pennsylvania Derby rivals in the dust by 7 1/4 lengths en route to his second consecutive Grade 1 victory.

The victory saved the afternoon for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, who finished second a race earlier in the Grade 1 Cotillion with Abel Tasman.

Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming is the only other 3-year-old to have won two Grade 1's on the main track this season. But with division leadership up for grabs, Always Dreaming is being rested on a farm while West Coast's campaign is gathering momentum. Oscar Performance has two Grade 1 wins this year, but they have come over turf.

West Coast's victory celebration was dampened by the breakdown of runner-up Irap past the finish line. He was pulled up nearing the turn.

According to Celeste Kunz, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association, "Irap was diagnosed with a left front sesamoid fracture. He was stablilized on the track and vanned back to his barn."

Irap trainer Doug O'Neill later texted that "Irap was resting comfortably in his stall and has an appointment Monday morning at the New Bolton Center with Dr. Dean Richardson to surgically repair his left front sesamoids. Prognosis is good."

When the gates opened in the Pennsylvania Derby, West Coast broke a bit awkwardly but was urged to contention by Smith. West Coast tracked front-running Outplay through fractions of 23.20, 47.24, and 1:11.18 before taking control of the race nearing the five-sixteenths pole.

West Coast powered home, getting a mile in 1:36.79 and stopping the timer in 1:49.91 with Smith not asking for his best late.

"He was a little aggressive early because I asked him so aggressively out of there," Smith said. "He ran really well today. He's turned into a really good horse."

Irap lodged a four-wide bid into the stretch, then ducked in sharply in upper stretch. He held second by a length over 47-1 Giuseppe the Great, who rallied from far back.

The victory was the second in the Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert, who upset California Chrome in 2014 with Bayern.

"He's just getting bigger, better," Baffert said of West Coast. "He has a big frame. He's just filled out. He was bouncing me around pretty good when I was saddling him."

The divisional implications of West Coast's Victory were not lost on Baffert.

"The Travers was pretty impressive and he was awful good today," Baffert said. "I know he's late to the party. It just took him time to get to this level."

Baffert would not commit West Coast to the Breeders' Cup Classic. He also said Arrogate "was not sure to run either." It would be hard to imagine Baffert not being represented in the Classic by one.

West Coast won the Travers at the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Classic.

"The Breeders' Cup is a long ways off, we'll wait and see," Baffert said. "We'll just get him back to Santa Anita and see how's he's doing."

West Coast, who is owned by Gary and Mary West, is now 6 for 8 in his career and riding a five-race win streak. He earned $550,000 from the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby purse, pushing his bankroll past $1.5 million. He paid $3.80 to win in the 10-horse field.

"Mr. West wants to run him next year at 4," Baffert said.

Pacesetter Outplay tired to finish sixth. Timeline tired after six furlongs at 5-1 and finished seventh.

Eighth-place finisher Irish War Cry, who raced in good early position, lodged a three-wide bid on the far turn, then appeared to be leveling off when jockey Feargal Lynch steadied him as Irap crossed over in front of them in the stretch. The stewards conducted an inquiry into the incident but let the order of finish stand.