By Dick Jerardi
The races were run 12 minutes and 57 miles apart. The winners were an 8-year-old gelding who absolutely loves the Parx grass course and a 3-year-old filly who clearly loves to train at Parx. One day, it would be no surprise if that gelding, Pure Sensation, and that filly, Jaywalk, both became members of the Parx Racing Hall of Fame.
First, it was Pure Sensation in the Grade III Parx Dash on a course soaked by rain that fell on the afternoon of July 6. It was Pure Sensation’s seventh race on the course. His only loss came in the same race in 2018 when he finished a close third.
This Parx Dash was not close at all. With clods of grass flying behind him, Pure Sensation went right to the front, shook off two challenges on the far turn, opened up a huge lead in the stretch and eased home a 4 1/4 length winner.
That was the horse’s third Parx Dash to go along with three Turf Monsters, breaking a tie with Parx Hall of Famer Ben’s Cat for wins in the track’s grass sprint stakes.
Why does Pure Sensation love the Parx course so much?
“I don’t know,” said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “We took him to (Penn National) last time. I think he likes a small track, tight turns.”
Pure Sensation trains and sometimes runs at Belmont Park which decidedly is not a small track and does not have tight turns, not even on its grass course.
“He’s got so much speed that around those turns he does it effortlessly,” Lorieul said. “I thought he was very impressive. We had a question about the turf. He likes it when it’s really hard.”
Hard, soft or in between, Pure Sensation, who was ridden by Paco Lopez, always fires on the Parx grass course.
All that was missing from the familiar scene was Pure Sensation’s regular rider Kendrick Carmouche, a Parx Hall of Famer himself. Carmouche, who says Pure Sensation is “like a big brother”, was down at Delaware Park riding that stakes-filled card.
Unfortunately for Carmouche, he was not riding Jaywalk in the Grade III Delaware Oaks. That was Joe Bravo and, for the first time in 2019, we all got to see the real Jaywalk.
The 2018 2-year-old filly champion and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner got blinkers for the first time. She also made an easy lead for the first time this year. If you superimposed last November’s Breeders’ Cup race over this Delaware Oaks, they would have looked identical.
Jaywalk won by 5 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs. She won by 9 lengths at Delaware Park. She was never threatened in either race.
In her three previous races this year, Jaywalk did not have the same speed or the same pop she showed in 2018 when she won four of five starts, including the Grade I Frizette. She did all that when she was based at Parx. She just wasn’t the same after going to Florida for the winter.
Well, she has been back at Parx for two months and it showed.
“When she came back after her first race earlier in the year, I thought maybe she needed the race, so I started bearing down on her a little bit with her works and that is probably the worst thing I could have done,” trainer John Servis said. “She just did not respond well to it.”
After one loss in Florida and two more in Kentucky, Servis said he started over with Jaywalk, going back to the routine that was so successful in 2018.
The trainer went “with what we did last year with the two-minute licks and putting those long quicker miles in her and she responded. That was my girl today. It felt very, very good when she started opening up. You know with horses, sometimes you have got to figure them out and we get caught up in the shuffle sometimes and you got to go back to square one.”
The early season goal for Jaywalk was the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. That plan did not work so well. The late season goal is the Grade I Cotillion at her home track in September. That plan is off to a great start.