A trio of 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) contestants will represent the classic form in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx.
Two sport a new look, so to speak. Hofburg adds blinkers for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, while Instilled Regard makes his first start since transferring to Chad Brown, and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas’ hardy Bravazo is ready to go to war again.
Bravazo, the only horse other than Justify to race in all three jewels of this year’s Triple Crown, is also the only one to take part in the three ensuing Grade 1s in the division on dirt. Bookending his hard-charging second in the Preakness (G1) with sixths in the Derby and Belmont S. (G1), he was runner-up in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and third in the Travers (G1). Calumet Farm’s homebred hopes to break through with a top-level score on Saturday.
Hofburg, whose traffic-marred trip in the Derby cost him a better finish than seventh, skipped the Preakness to enter the Belmont fresh. But the Juddmonte homebred could not quicken enough off Justify’s uncontested pace and had to settle for third. Lowering his sights for an easy prep in the Curlin S., he outclassed his opposition by five lengths, only to miss the Travers after spiking a fever. The talented colt put it all together versus lesser, and the equipment change to blinkers might help him do the same against a deeper cast.
Instilled Regard has not been seen since the Derby, where he proved his 85-1 odds all wrong with a strong fourth. Owner Larry Best later switched him from Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to Brown, who boasts a 29 percent strike rate in the “first start with trainer” category according to Brisnet.com. As an Arch colt, Instilled Regard has shaped as the type to improve with maturity, and it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Their leading rival is Bob Baffert’s McKinzie, who was a prominent Kentucky Derby hopeful knocked off the trail by injury in the spring.
Two more Derby participants are early favorites in races on the Penn Derby undercard. Firenze Fire, who’s benefited from cutting back in trip, headlines the six-furlong Gallant Bob (G3), and Fast and Accurate, a 2017 Derby alum, is in the Alphabet Soup on turf.
Battle of Midway, third in last year’s Derby, tops Saturday’s Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont Park. Retired to stud after his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), he proved subfertile, returned to the track, and recently placed second to unbeaten Catalina Cruiser in his Pat O’Brien (G2) comeback.
Hofburg photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography