Without Maximum Security, Improbable Steps Up


Photo Copyright Eclipse Sportswire

By Emily Shields for TVG

With the scratch of star-crossed Maximum Security, a field of six is set to go in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing on Saturday.

Maximum Security, who officially won the Florida Derby (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) earlier this year, and unofficially won the Kentucky Derby (G1) before being disqualified, was the 9-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race for three-year-olds. An acute bout of colic will keep him from the race, leaving six runners.

Without that rival, California shipped Improbable has been made the 8-5 choice. A grade 1 winner at two, Bob Baffert-trainee Improbable lost both the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby before going into the Kentucky Derby as the favorite. He finished fifth but was placed fourth, making him the favorite for the Preakness Stakes as well. He ran sixth and was given some time off.

This summer at Del Mar, Improbable came back in the Shared Belief Stakes and rolled home to win by 2 ¾ lengths, pushing his record to four wins and two seconds in eight starts. Although Drayden Van Dyke was aboard for the Shared Belief, Mike Smith, who was on for the Preakness, is back for this. Improbable shipped in from Santa Anita on Wednesday.

Challengers for Improbable include Mr. Money, who is riding a four-race win streak, all against grade 3 company. He took the Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard, then added the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs, the Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand, and the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. His average margin of victory during the streak is over five lengths. Bret Calhoun trains for Allied Racing Stable LLC.

Math Wizard has finished behind Mr. Money in his last two starts. The son of Algorithms was last seen winning a claiming race at Gulfstream Park by 18 ½ lengths; he has since been second twice, third once, and fourth twice before running sixth in the West Virginia Derby. Math Wizard has been training for this out of Gulfstream.

Coming quietly into the race is Gary Barber’s War of Will. The son of War Front was grade 1 placed as a juvenile and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) before steadily climbing the divisional ranks this year. He won the LeComte (G3) and the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds, then finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby due to interference by Maximum Security. He rebounded in the Preakness Stakes (G1), winning for trainer Mark Casse and regular rider Tyler Gaffalione. Since then he has been ninth in the Belmont Stakes and fifth in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga. He has had three bullet workouts in the last month.

The local hope is Spun to Run, who is three for five at Parx including the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) over 1 1/16-miles last out. The son of Hard Spun will have Paco Lopez aboard and has won three of his last four starts. The maiden Shanghai Superfly completes the field.

Watch the Pennsylvania Derby, the $1 million Cotillion for the fillies, and all the other stakes action live on TVG and TVG2.

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