The Favorites Take A Back Seat At Parx Racing

Handsome Mike & My Miss Aurelia Are Winners!

Saturday was a big day at Parx Racing as the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes would test some of the best three-year-old colts and fillies of 2012. Golden Ticket and Alpha finished in a dead heat at the Travers Stakes last month and Alpha was expected to be at the front of the field Saturday with his biggest threat possibly being Macho Macho. Questing had won three consecutive races in dominating fashion and was a 7-5 favorite in the four horse field for the Cotillion Stakes.

Handsome Mike was an afterthought to bettors on Saturday as he went out of the gate as the long shot, posting 19-1 odds. Two minutes later, the Doug O’Neill trained colt surged across the finish line, winning the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by a couple of lengths. The favorite going into the race was Alpha, who had won four out of six starts in 2012 and was trying to get into position to be mentioned as a contender for three-year-old of the year. Those hopes were set back on Saturday, as Alpha finished out of the money. At the starting gate, Alpha seemed troubled and got off to a slow start, while Handsome Mike made a nice start pulling out in front immediately. Rather than accept the slow start and stalking the field while regrouping, jockey Ramon Dominguez pushed Alpha into the lead around the first turn, but gave it right back. Handsome Mike continued to lead past the half mile marker with Macho Macho, Alpha, and Golden Ticket just trailing. At the far turn it looked as though Alpha had totally regained his composure and he battled with Handsome Mike for the front position, with Csaba trying to make a run.

At the top of the stretch, the leaders were four wide as they fought one another for the lead. Golden Ticket, Alpha, and Macho Macho were lined up outside of Handsome Mike and looked poised to run past the leader, but the long shot was able to pull away by a couple of lengths. Alpha, possibly tired out from the early surge after the bad start, faded near the end as Macho Macho and Golden Ticket dueled for second and third and that’s how they finished. Alpha is still being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but after this disappointing contest he doesn’t look nearly as strong, but a weakened three-year-old division will still have him among the favorites in November at Santa Anita.

The Grade I Cotillion Stakes had only four entries on Saturday, as Questing took the track, looking to extend a three race winning streak, in which she had impressively led two graded races from start to finish. My Miss Aurelia was considered a threat, but she had only been tested once, winning the Mandy’s Gold Stakes, since going down with a shin injury after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for fillies last November. Out of the gate, Questing and My Miss Aurelia ran side by side, with My Miss Aurelia backing off and letting the favorite set the pace. On the back stretch, Questing maintained a two length lead and set a moderate pace for the field. The front-runner briefly moved out in front by three lengths, but My Miss Aurelia, Moment in Dixie, and Dixie Strike started their moves just before the turn and closed the gap.

At the top of the stretch the two favorites emerged side by side in a real battle for the lead, with neither giving an inch. These two were literally shoulder to shoulder and provided dramatics as each stride saw one take the lead over the other. Just 25 yards from the finish, My Miss Aurelia was able to inch just ahead and took the Cotillion by just over a nose. Dixie Strike finished a distant third, with Moment in Dixie pulling up the rear, well behind the front three. This race sets up what could be a very exciting Breeders’ Cup, as My Miss Aurelia and Questing will probably face off again, but this time they may have the unbeaten Awesome Feather to contend with. If those three match up, it could be the most dramatic race of the event!

2012 Pennsylvania Derby

2012 Cotillion Stakes

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