parx 2024 at the midway point

By Dick Jerardi

Not sure where the time went, but the calendar says we are in July, winter and spring now memories. So where are we at Parx at the year’s midway point, with so much to consider as we head deeper into summer and then early fall?

Jamie Ness (79 wins at Parx) is dominating the trainer standings again on his way to a fifth straight title. Ness has 170 wins all told, second only to Steve Asmussen nationally. Ernesto Padilla-Preciado (34 Parx wins) had a terrific first half of the year. He is followed in the standings by Scott Lake (30), Mike Pino (26), Lou Linder (24), Kate DeMasi (21) and Guadalupe Guerrero (20).

Mychel Sanchez (93 wins) is again far ahead in the jockey standings. Nationally Sanchez (131) trails only the Ortiz brothers, Irad (164) and Jose (153), and Paco Lopez (148). He is followed at Parx by the terrific Eliseo Ruiz (71), Dexter Haddock (61), Abner Adorno (40), Frankie Pennington (34) and Lopez (30).

Jack Armstrong leads all solo owners in money won ($535, 960) and wins (16). But this is kind of a tricky category to evaluate as several of Ness’s major owners are involved in partnerships that win big. Jagger Inc. is part of three groups that have 20, 14 and 14 wins. Morris Kernan is part of two of those groups with 20 and 14 wins.

Counterspy, a great claim by Armstrong and trainer Bobby Mosco, leads all the horses with money won ($150,000) at Parx, followed by Respirator ($116,530), Ron Don Scorese ($103,460) and Cause I Said ($100,400).

The annual three-week break looms in late July with an Aug. 19 return that begins the best month of the year at the track.

Smarty Jones Day (Saturday, Aug, 24) is going to be extra special this year because it will be a 20th anniversary celebration of the horse that is so responsible for so much that has gone right at the track since 2004 – slot-infused purses, a better racing product, pensions and health care for horsemen.

Without Smarty Jones’ run to glory that spring, then Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has said he doubts the slots bill would have been passed in the summer of 2004. What the brilliant Smarty did from early November 2003 until early June 2004 at Philadelphia Park, Aqueduct, Oaklawn Park, Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park will never be forgotten and stands as one of the great eight-month runs in modern horse racing history.

So Smarty will be celebrated all that Saturday and in the day’s centerpiece race the $200,000 Smarty Jones Stakes that will be preceded by five other stakes, including the $200,000 Cathryn Sophia Stakes.

Just two days later (Monday, Aug, 26), Parx will host Pa. Day at the Races that will include four $100,000 stakes for Pennsylvania Breds.

Those two great race days will serve as the appetizer for Saturday September 21 when the 10 scheduled stakes will be anchored as always by the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and $1 million Cotillion.

Several of the races on Smarty Jones Day and Pennsylvania Derby Day will be shown as part of live telecasts on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The first show will be framed around Smarty Jones, of course. The second will include some of the best horses, trainers and jockeys in the country on what has become America’s best September day of racing.

Trainer Kenny McPeek has said repeatedly that Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan has the Pa. Derby on his schedule. McPeek is also thinking hard about the Cotillion for Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna, easily the country’s best 3-year-old filly and perhaps the best 3-year-old of either sex.

Horse racing legend Wayne Lukas has been a regular at Parx for the big races so Preakness winner Seize the Grey could certainly be in the Pa. Derby starting gate as could Belmont Stakes winner Dornoch. Would be great to see Phillies great Jayson Werth, a 10 percent owner of Dornoch, at Parx for the big day. Werth clearly loves the game and is an articulate spokesperson for it.

So, six months down, with the best racing on the immediate horizon. Can’t wait.

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