July 24, 2024

Saudi Crown controls Pennsylvania Derby on the lead

Saudi Crown winning the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing
Saudi Crown winning the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing (Photo by Equi-Photo)

Following a pair of nose seconds in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Dwyer (G3), Saudi Crown earned his first stakes win in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1), dominating the action on the front end over a sloppy track at Parx. Brad Cox trains the gray colt for Faisal M. Alqahtani’sFMQ Stables, and Florent Geroux guided the 11-10 favorite.

Saudi Crown bounded clear from the starting gate, establishing opening splits in :23.16, :47.27, and 1:12, and he led by two lengths in upper stretch of the 1 1/8-mile test for three-year-olds. Dreamlike came charging on the far outside in deep stretch, but Saudi Crown held safely by a half-length.

“Right before he straightened up (in upper stretch), I saw his ears going back and forth and I thought this horse is looking around a little bit,” Cox said. “He kind of got a little lost. Florent said he was looking around a little bit when he came back to the winner’s circle. He is still lightly raced and he had re-engage a bit and push him along.”  

The up-and-coming son of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming finished in 1:50.62.

“He broke super sharp,” Geroux said. “I broke and I was almost like a good length and a half in front, so when you break that sharp it allows you to take a better position instead of breaking flat-footed or a step slow. He broke like a rocket and from there I thought I was in a great spot. Reincarnate, being so far outside, I thought it gave me an extra second and a half to slow it down in the beginning. I didn’t see the fraction, what was it, :47? (half-mile fraction in :47.27)…Pretty good huh?”

Dreamlike raced toward the back of the pack until straightening for home, closing well to be six lengths clear in second at 7.80-1. Il Miradcolo rallied belatedly to edge Magic Tap by a neck at 25-1, and survived a rider’s objection for third. Crupi came next in fifth and was followed by 9-2 second choice Reincarnate, Gilmore, Daydreaming Boy, West Coast Cowboy, Scotland, and Modern Era.

Bred in Kentucky by China Horse Club, Saudi Crown initially sold for $45,000 as a short yearling at the 2021 Keeneland January sale. He was pinhooked for $240,000 last year at the OBS April two-year-old sale. He’s out of the unraced Tapit mare New Narration, who hails from the Grade 3-winning New Normal.

Saudi Crown captured his career debut at Keeneland in April, scoring by nearly five lengths, and came back to convincingly win an entry-level allowance win at Churchill Downs five weeks later. He led nearly all the way in the Jim Dandy over a sloppy Saratoga track, coming up a nose short to Forte, and rebounded stylishly in the Pennsylvania Derby, improving his career earnings to $811,085 from a 5-3-2-0 record.

“Last time he was a little bit keen first time around two turns (in the Jim Dandy),” Geroux said. “I thought I could go a little bit quicker to get him to go a little more relaxed, and that’s what I did today. Just to have a two-turn race under his belt, I think from now on he’s going to be very dangerous. He’s a horse we always had very high hopes on. We always had faith in him and I’m glad the owner made the trip from Saudi today. They seem very happy and very proud of the horse.

“It’s great, especially winning a Grade 1 race. He’s a three-year-old. This year it’s just too bad because he came very late to the party. He’s just two noses away from being undefeated.”

The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 remains an option for Saudi Crown.

“He could be in the Classic,” Cox said. “Based off the pedigree, by a Derby winner out of a Tapit mare, with his physical deal, he could handle the mile and a quarter. Obviously, you have to get the right setup. I am not sure he has to have the lead in order to win. He is a pretty kind horse who breaks well. I will tell you this, with his Saudi-based ownership group – great guys to work with and for – I think the Saudi Cup (G1) (in February) is one race that is definitely on the target as well.”