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Will Take Charge, Moreno, and Palace Malice fight to the finish in Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, July 2013. Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire.

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 34th running of the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby is as much about the rivalry between Travers Stakes winner Will Take Charge and Moreno as it is about which 3-year-old among this group of eight will take down the $600,000 winner's share of the purse. After Will Take Charge finished in front of Moreno by two and one-quarter lengths when second and third, respectively, in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes in July, Moreno narrowed that gap to a nose last month in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes but still came up short after leading from the start. With both horses entering the Pennsylvania Derby in tip-top shape, we could see another battle down to the finish line. Travers fifth-place finisher Romansh and ninth-place finisher Transparent will run as a coupled entry and could have a say in the outcome if able to repeat their previous efforts when second and first, respectively, when the field crossed the finish line in the Curlin Stakes at the distance of the Pennsylvania Derby, before Transparent was disqualified and placed fifth. Java's War changes trainers to Barclay Tagg and hopes to rebound to the top form shown when winning the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in April. Speak Logistics got in a potentially beneficial prep race on the track when second by a neck earlier this month in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes, in which Battier finished fourth. Fury Kapcori ships in from California off a head defeat in the El Cajon Stakes and rounds out the field.

Transparent was visually impressive winning the Curlin Stakes near the end of July at the distance of the Pennsylvania Derby, but in angling out for room with a quarter mile to run he interfered with another horse and was disqualified. Having earned a 112 Equibase Speed Figure in that victory and a 117 Equibase Speed Figure just prior to that, Transparent proved he belongs with these as Will Take Charge earned 114 figures in his last two races. Adding Lasix (furosemide) for the first time and with regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle for his last seven races, Transparent could be capable of posting the mild upset if he runs his best race.


Romansh Inside

Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese/NYRA

Romansh will be coupled in the wagering with Transparent, which gives bettors "two for the price of one," and is a contender in his own right. In the Curlin Stakes, Romansh was returning from two months off following a big victory by 5 1/2 lengths and made the lead in the stretch only to be caught by Transparent before being moved up to first via the disqualification. Tiring to fifth after pressing pacesetter Moreno in the early stages of the Travers, Romansh still managed a 109 Equibase Speed Figure that was just one point shy of his 110 best earned in the Curlin. Returning to the distance of that big effort in this race, Romansh could also return to form good enough to win.

Will Take Charge has earned back-to-back 114 Equibase Speed Figures and that pairing often represents a big step forward, or a step backward. Currently in the best form of his career, Will Take Charge was closing nicely in the late stages to be second in the Jim Dandy before prevailing in the final strides of the Travers to win by a nose over Moreno. Jockey Luis Saez rode Will Take Charge for the first time in the Travers and did it like he had ridden the hard-knocking colt in all of his 11 previous starts when timing his late charge perfectly. A similar effort may give Will Take Charge the potential to repeat his Travers performance in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Speak Logistics earned a 111 Equibase Speed Figure when second, beaten by a neck, in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing three weeks ago. Having positive experience on the track could mean even better things in this situation. Speak Logistics finished second at this 1 1/8-mile distance earlier this year in the Calder Derby and that is another reason to consider this colt, who gets the ground-saving rail, as a contender with a chance to post the upset.

Moreno did all the running when setting the pace in the Travers then was taken on in the stretch by Orb, losing the lead with a quarter-mile to go then retaking it before being passed near the finish line by Will Take Charge. On a pattern of improving Equibase Speed figures (109-110-114) and expected to be in front from the opening strides once again in the Pennsylvania Derby, Moreno could prove very tough to run down once more.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Battier (106), Fury Kapcori (101), and Java's War (103).

My Selections:

Transparent/Romansh Entry

Will Take Charge

Speak Logistics


$1 million Pennsylvania Derby

Saturday, Parx Racing, Race 11, 5:45 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt







Speak Logistics (FL)

P. Lopez


E. Plesa, Jr.


Transparent (FL)

I Ortiz Jr.


K P McLaughlin


Moreno (KY)

J L Ortiz


E J Guillot


Battier (FL)

A. Castillo


T A Pletcher


Java’s War (KY)

J R Leparoux


B. Tagg


Fury Kapcori (KY)

M E Smith


J. Hollendorfer


Romansh (KY)

R. Maragh


T. Albertrani


Will Take Charge (KY)

L. Saez


D W Lukas

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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