Saudi Crown reaches destination; Pretty Mischievous vies to lock up title

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Saudi Crown gallops at Parx Racing Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby. Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO.

Brad Cox watched Saudi Crown finish second by the slimmest of margins in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes July 1 at Belmont Park – he still cringes at bit thinking about the replay – and started thinking about September in Philadelphia.

“I love how he’s doing,” Cox said Thursday morning from Kentucky, two days before Saudi Crown runs in the Grade 1, $1 million betPARX Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing just outside Philly. “We’ve been pointing for this ever since he ran second at Belmont.”

The 7-2 second choice on the morning line set by Parx Director of Racing and Racing Secretary David Osojnak, Saudi Crown looks to improve off his second in the Dwyer and second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy last time out at Saratoga Race Course. Cox considered another path to get to the 9-furlong Pennsylvania Derby, one direct through Parx, but took a different route.

“We didn’t know how we were going to get there,” Cox said. “We thought we were going to take the Smarty Jones path, then back to the Pa Derby, but the way the Jim Dandy came up, we thought we’d take a run there and he ran well. Ran a winning race. Then came out of it in good order.”

Saudi Crown made all the pace in the Dwyer and Jim Dandy before losing both by a nose. The most recent came after a rough stretch run in the Jim Dandy, where Saudi Crown wasn’t affected, as Forte got up in the final jump on a sloppy track.

Cox didn’t seriously consider running Saudi Crown, a $240,000 purchase at last year’s OBS April sale for FMQ Stables, back in four weeks in Saratoga’s Travers. He preferred the eight-week gap between the Jim Dandy and Pennsylvania Derby.

“I’m hopeful he’ll move forward now with some time between races,” Cox said. “Running back in four weeks would have been asking a lot of him. He ran huge (in the Jim Dandy), a great race.”

Saudi Crown earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts – a 106 in the Dwyer and 105 in the Jim Dandy. The son of Always Dreaming holds that edge over his 10 rivals in the Pennsylvania Derby, with only 10-1 longshot Gilmore earning a triple-digit figure when he recorded a 104 when third in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont.

“Those are two serious numbers, and all of his numbers have been serious,” Cox said. “He’s a good horse. A very good horse.”

Cotillion favorite Pretty Mischievous takes first spin at Parx

Godolphin’s Pretty Mischievous made the trip south from Saratoga Race Course to Parx Racing Wednesday and got her first look at the racetrack where she’ll contest the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion Stakes on a perfect late September morning Thursday in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

Accompanied to the track by trainer Brendan Walsh on his pony, Pretty Mischievous and exercise rider Roger Horgan galloped once around the 1-mile oval shortly after the track opened for training at 6a.m.

Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous gallops under Roger Horgan Thursday at Parx Racing in in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes. Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO.

“She handled it all very well, just one turn of the track,” Walsh said as Pretty Mischievous peered over her stall screen as Gilmore, who the trainer will run in Saturday’s co-featured betPARX Pennsylvania Derby, walked the shedrow. “It wasn’t a particularly hard trip for them, coming down yesterday.”

Pretty Mischievous, the 2-1 favorite on Parx Director of Racing and Racing Secretary David Osojnak’s morning line, comes into the Cotillion on a three-race win streak in Grade 1 stakes. She won the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and Acorn at Belmont Park this spring, and the Test at Saratoga Race Course after the breakdown of Maple Leaf Mel in the final strides.

The homebred daughter of Into Mischief could take a significant step toward the 3-year-old filly championship with a Cotillion victory. She’s won four of five with a second this season, after a 2-year-old campaign where she won three of four with a third.

Walsh marveled at the filly’s consistent career that started with a maiden win Sept. 18, 2022 at Churchill Downs through the Aug. 5 Test.

“I was looking at her record the other day and it’s unbelievable,” Walsh said. “It’s a testament to her. Look, you have to have the ammunition, but it is a testament to her. I haven’t had too many of them that have been able to keep it that consistent for that long. Generally, you hit some bump, or they’ll back up, something. She’s won seven of nine and the couple times she got beat she was second or third. It will be nice if we can pull it off again Saturday.”

 Tyler Gaffalione, aboard Pretty Mischievous in her last three starts, takes the call again Saturday from post three in the field of nine entered in the 1 1/16-mile Cotillion.

Walsh left Pretty Mischievous and Gilmore in Saratoga to finish preparations for their Parx engagements and heads into Saturday feeling confident.

“She’s doing great,” Walsh said. “I was up there for a few days for her last couple of works. I just didn’t want to bring her all the way down (to Kentucky) and back up again for the race. She was doing so well up there. It made sense to leave her.

“I’ve been very, very happy both times with what I’ve seen coming back there. She’s doing as good as maybe she’s done at any point in the year, which is remarkable considering she’s had a busy year but it doesn’t surprise me. She’s just rock-solid.”

This Is Horse Racing’s Tom Law is part of the publicity team at Parx Racing covering the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes.