January 23, 2018

West Coast, Irap clash again in Pennsylvania Derby

West Coast and jockey Mike Smith win the Travers (G1) (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)

Having tossed his hat into the three-year-old championship discussion with a wire-to-wire victory in last month’s Travers (G1), West Coast will look to burnish his credentials for that honor in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing. The Bob Baffert-trained son of Flatter was installed the 8-5 favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Derby, and will break from post 4 under Mike Smith.

A late developer who missed all three classics, West Coast nonetheless proved superior to the trio of Triple Crown race winners, plus an assortment of other good runners, in Saratoga’s “Midsummer Derby,” scoring from end to end by 3 1/4 lengths. It was the third straight stakes win for the colt, who previously captured the $150,000 Easy Goer and the Los Alamitos Derby (G3).

Irap, favored slightly over West Coast in the Travers betting after earlier wins in the Blue Grass (G2), Ohio Derby (G3), and Indiana Derby (G3), can get his own championship aspirations back on course with an initial top-level score. The Doug O’Neill charge took a run at West Coast approaching the quarter pole at Saratoga, but could not keep pace in upper stretch and eventually settled for third, more than five lengths behind the winner.

Irish War Cry has blown hot and cold this term, offsetting wins in the Holy Bull (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2) and a sharp second in the Belmont S. (G1) with up-the-track finishes in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Fountain of Youth (G2). Last time, the New Jersey-bred son of Curlin weakened to fourth as one of the betting choices in the Haskell Invitational (G1).

Also exiting a disappointing run in the Haskell is Timeline, who entered that nine-furlong test as the favorite off four straight wins to start his career. Fifth that day, he has previously enjoyed facile victories in the Peter Pan (G3) and Pegasus (G3).

Outplay, a distant third to West Coast in the June 10 Easy Goer at Belmont, led throughout to take the restricted $100,000 Curlin early in the Saratoga meet for Todd Pletcher, and figures to be part of a solid pace.

Game Over, Talk Logistics, and Giuseppe the Great are graded stakes-placed, but need career best efforts. Watch Me Whip and Term of Art complete the field.

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