By Christina Bossinakis
The afternoon's graded stakes action at Parx kicked off most appropriately with the flashy grey Next (Not This Time) annexing the GIII Greenwood Cup S. and it didn't take long for the grey train to continue with Nobody Listen (Conveyance) taking the GIII Turf Monster S. With the remnants of Tropical storm Ophelia cranking, keeping the sky dark and the track murky, Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming) completed the grey graded trifecta in the day's feature, the GI Pennsylvania Derby.
Employing the same tactics used successfully earlier in the program over the sealed track, Saudi Crown exited Post 3 in good order, sprinting to the front as the quartet of Scotland (Good Magic), West Coast Cowboy (West Coast), Magic Tap (Tapit) and Reincarnate (Good Magic) surveyed from a length behind through a :23 opening quarter. Still coasting in front after a :47 1/5 half-mile, the Brad Cox trainee appeared to be keeping up the tempo as Il Miracolo (Gun Runner) and Magic Tap started to amp up the pressure turning for home while Dreamlike (Gun Runner) started to close from the back, several paths off the rail. With Florent Geroux riding the green colt with a firm hand in the final sixteenth, the pricey yearling purchase Dreamlike closed with purpose late, however, came up a half-length short at the wire. Il Miracolo was six lengths back in third.
“He broke super sharp. I was almost like a good length and a half in front, so when you break that sharp, it allows you to take a better position instead of breaking flat-footed or a step slow,” said Geroux. “He broke like a rocket and from there I thought I was in a great spot. Reincarnate, being so far outside, I thought it gave me an extra second and a half to slow it down in the beginning. I didn't see the fraction, what was it, :47? [:47.27]..Pretty good huh?”
Added Cox, “Right before he straightened up, I saw his ears going back and forth and I thought this horse is looking around a little bit. He kind of got a little lost. Florent said he was looking around a little bit when he came back to the winner's circle. He is still lightly raced and he had re-engage a bit and push him along.”
The 3-year-old is campaigned by Faisal M. Alqahtani of FMQ Sables, which has been involved in U.S. racing for one year.
A winner of his first two starts, including a 6 1/2-furlong test at Churchill Downs May 21, the OBS April graduate came up a nose short in the one-mile GIII Dwyer S. at Belmont July 1 and was beaten again by the same margin by juvenile champion Forte (Violence) in a sloppy renewal of the nine-furlong GII Jim Dandy S. July 29.
After two narrow losses, what made the difference today?
“Just progression. In the Dwyer, he had come off a 6 1/2-furlong [win] and was stretching out to a mile. He went up the backstretch a little quick that day but overall finished up well. He was passed and he came back and lost the bob. The last time out, he got beat a nose by a champion in his first run around two turns. We have asked a lot out of him in last two runs and I think he gained a lot of experience and has been battle-tested in his last two runs.”
And the speed-favoring nature of the track was also a factor, according to Cox.
“Based on what we saw throughout the day, I thought we had to be aggressive,” he said. “Sometimes, you see that and everyone has the same idea. He has enough natural speed to break clear off and he did and Flo did a great job.”
What next for Saudi Crown?
“He could be in the Classic,” said Cox. “Based off the pedigree, by Derby winner [Always Dreaming] out of a Tapit mare, with his physical deal, he could handle the mile and a quarter. Obviously, you have to get the right setup. I am not sure he has to have the lead in order to win. He is a pretty kind horse who breaks well. I will tell you this, with his Saudi-based ownership group–great guys to work with and for–I think the Saudi Cup is one race that is definitely on the target as well.”
Saudi Crown gives his Kentucky Derby-winning sophomore sire Always Dreaming his first graded and Grade I stakes winner. The winner is out of the unraced mare New Narration, a daughter of Grade III winner New Normal (Forestry), and a granddaughter of Dual graded stakes winning New Economy (Red Ransom). This represents the family of Grade I winner Noble's Promise (Cuvee).
PENNSYLVANIA DERBY-GI, $1,000,000, Parx Racing, 9-23, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:50.62, sy.
1–SAUDI CROWN, 120, c, 3, by Always Dreaming
1st Dam: New Narration, by Tapit
2nd Dam: New Normal, by Forestry
3rd Dam: New Economy, by Red Ransom
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I
WIN. ($45,000 Ylg '21 KEEJAN; $240,000 2yo '22 OBSAPR).
O-FMQ Stables; B-Chc Inc. (KY); T-Brad H. Cox; J-Florent
Geroux. $546,000. Lifetime Record: 5-3-2-0, $817,085. Werk
Nick Rating: A+. Click for eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Dreamlike, 120, c, 3, Gun Runner–Time to Tap, by Tapit.
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. ($975,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-Repole
Stable and St. Elias Stable; B-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (KY);
T-Todd A. Pletcher. $182,000.
3–Il Miracolo, 124, c, 3, Gun Runner–Tapit's World, by Tapit.
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. ($75,000 Ylg '21 KEEJAN; $190,000 RNA Ylg '21 FTKOCT; $70,000 2yo '22 OBSOPN). O-Eduardo Soto; B-Willow Oaks Stable LLC (KY); T-Antonio Sano. $91,000.
Margins: HF, 6, NK. Odds: 1.10, 7.80, 25.10.
Also Ran: Magic Tap, Crupi, Reincarnate, Gilmore, Daydreaming Boy, West Coast Cowboy, Scotland, Modern Era.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.
👑 SAUDI CROWN (Always Dreaming) is KING in the GI @betPARX Pennsylvania Derby, leading every step of the way and outlasting a late challenge from Dreamlike to earn his first career Grade I victory! #PADerby pic.twitter.com/SF81cpfnXa
— TDN (@theTDN) September 23, 2023