2023 parx stakes set to begin

 By Dick Jerardi

The first two of 31 Parx stakes in 2023, worth more than $6 million, are set for Monday (April 24). The $100,000 Page McKenney and $100,000 Unique Belle will get the stakes schedule underway.

There are stakes before Pennsylvania Derby Day (Sept. 23) and after, but make no mistake, everything revolves around that Saturday in September when Parx is showcased not just in the commonwealth, but around the country.

In addition to the Grade I $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (aka the Bob Baffert Derby) and the Grade I $1 million Cotillion (aka the Steve Asmussen Oaks), the big day will have three other graded stakes and five more stakes on a card which has annually become the best in America during the month of September.

Baffert and Asmussen have dominated the biggest races in recent years, but Parx owners and trainers have become major factors in some of the other stakes on Derby Day. In fact, Parx-based horses were first across the line in the 2022 Grade II Gallant Bob, the Grade III Turf Monster, the Grade III Greenwood Cup, and the Parx Dirt Mile. Those races will go with purses of $400,000, $250,000, $200,000, and $300,000, respectively in 2023.

Before we get to the fourth Saturday in September, we will have the Sunday, June 18, Father’s Day PTHA President’s Cup and then the Crowd Pleaser and Power By Far on June 26.

After the annual August break, there will be 11 stakes run over two days. Racing will return with the Aug. 21 Pa. Day at the Races which will feature seven Pennsylvania bred stakes. The following day, the Grade III $300,000 Smarty Jones and $200,000 Cathryn Sophia will be run as the local preps for the Pa. Derby and Cotillon. There will be two other stakes that day – the Salvatore M. DeBunda Sprint and the Parx Dash.

After Pa. Derby Day, the stakes schedule will continue with the Oct. 17 M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile and the Oct. 24 Jump Start. The schedule will conclude with the Nov. 28 Pennsylvania Nursery and the Wait For It and Miss Behaviour on Dec. 27.

The $1 million races for 3-year-olds colts and 3-year-old fillies obviously will have major divisional and Breeders’ Cup implications, but the great thing about all these stakes is how many will feature and be won by horses that are stabled at Parx.

That will begin Monday. Nominations for the Page McKenney include familiar local stars like Beren, Breezy Gust, and Smooth B. The Unique Bella noms include the streaking Disco Ebo, Love in the Air, and Morning Matcha, second in 2022 Cotillion.

Races for maidens, claimers and allowance types make up the daily fare that sustains the game and the people in it. The stakes races are an incentive for those who work all those hours every day getting the horses ready to run. And a trip to a stakes winner’s circle is the ultimate reward in a game that can be unyielding, but also so incredibly fulfilling.

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