2018 Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes Expert Picks with Betting Odds
Saturday is the one day of the year when Parx Racing in Philadelphia is relevant in the national racing scene. A purse north of $1 million and good timing for colts looking to make the Breeders' Cup has made the Pennsylvania Derby a significant race in recent years, with winners like West Coast, Frosted and Bayern putting their stamp on this race. And another million-dollar purse has drawn the top three-year-old fillies to Philly for a typically great race in the Cotillion Stakes. Both fields this year are strong and fascinating. Here's a look at how the races break down:
This race has come up as a 10-horse field, but half the field stands out as particularly interesting. Favored McKinzie (5/2) looked like the star of the Bob Baffert stable on the road to the Triple Crown this year, but he was hurt before we had even heard of Justify. They took it very slowly with this colt, and this is his first time back in action since the San Felipe on March 10. The son of Derby winner Street Sense has been training very well lately, though, and his talent is very significant. You can never truly know what a horse will look like off a long layoff like this, but Baffert is better managing it than most. This is a very interesting horse here.
McKinzie's biggest challenger is Hofburg (3/1), the son of Tapit who was seventh in the Derby and third in the Belmont. He was young and raw back then, but those races gave him seasoning, and he dominated a race at Saratoga at the end of July as well. He should be ready. But his natural talent is perhaps a step behind McKinzie's, so it remains to be seen if the added experience will make the difference.
Axelrod (5/1) won the Indiana Derby this summer then came back to win the Smarty Jones, which is the local prep for this race. This is the toughest spot he has faced, but he is in strong form and will be tough. I don't think he's good enough to justify the price, but he'll be in the mix.
Bravazo (6/1) is the workhorse of the field, having made 13 starts, including all three Triple Crown races. He was a strong second in the Preakness and was second in the Haskell and third in the Travers this summer. He's always in the mix but never quite good enough - and the top of this field is strong. I don't think he's quite good enough, but you could use him in the bottom of exotics.
Instilled Regard (15/1) is an intriguing long shot. The last we saw him he was a surprisingly solid fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Along with the layoff since that outing, he has changed barns, going from Jerry Hollendorfer to Chad Brown. He hasn't been working super crisply lately, but Brown's horses often don't. You can't ignore him in your exotics.
I believe in McKinzie and will have him to win and atop exotics featuring these four other horses. Hofburg will be in the win position in some exotics as well.
This eight-horse race is all about three fillies. The clear and obvious star is Monomoy Girl, the runaway star of the class this year. She's 5-for-5 this year, with the last four wins coming in Grade 1 stakes, including the Kentucky Oaks. She's an absolute beast as the price suggests. Her last win came at Saratoga in late July, so she is on schedule here, tuning up for the Breeders' Cup. She's working great, and she is terrifying. She will be extremely tough to beat here - and I don't think she will be.
Midnight Bisou (5/1) looked like the biggest threat to Monomoy Girl early in the year when she won her first three races. But this Steve Asmussen filly ridden here by Mike Smith was third in the Kentucky Oaks and was second and third her last time out - the former result in Monomoy Girl's last win. She is a very talented filly, but it feels like she is still looking for where she really belongs - and I'm not convinced that this is the spot.
Wonder Gadot (6/1) was second behind Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks, and since then she has been on an adventure. She went back to her native Canada and easily won the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown against colts. Instead of contesting the final leg, in which she would have been very heavily favored, she came south and took on the boys in the Travers. It really didn't go well - she didn't fire and finished a well-beaten 10th. Now she's retreating back to her own division, and I expect her to be tough here. Probably not tough enough to win, but very tough.
The play here is very straightforward - Monomoy Girl atop exacta and trifectas featuring the other two. It's about keeping the costs low because the return won't be great.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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