the parx saturday at aqueduct

By Dick Jerardi

It could have been better. It also could have been much worse.

Such was last Saturday when seven Parx horses ran in three stakes at Aqueduct, culminating with Parx being represented by 33 percent of the horses in the Wood Memorial starting gate.

There were no wins, but a second, a fourth, a fifth and catastrophe avoided were just fine when you consider what could have been when Deposition fell 300 yards from the finish line in the Wood.

It was not clear what happened. It still isn’t. Deposition did not move for a time, clearly in some sort of distress. Then, the horse got up, walked into the horse ambulance and, after a night at the Ruffian Clinic across the street from Belmont Park, was pronounced good enough to van back to the Parx home base of owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis. Jockey Dexter Haddock was sore, but good enough to win the first race at Parx Monday.

So, no visits to the winner’s circle, but, in this sport, you take victories wherever you can get them.

Lonesome Boy (80-1), Evening News (52-1), Deposition (157-1) and Uncle Heavy (9-1) were in search of Kentucky Derby points in the Wood on the day with the last three 200-point races. Lonesome Boy (trainer Hugo Padilla) was with the pace the whole way. Evening News (Mike Pino) actually set the pace. Deposition made a strong middle move. Uncle Heavy (Butch Reid) got off a step slow, was immediately out of position and had way too much to do.

The Washington bred Lonesome Boy and jockey Adam Bowman ended up a solid fourth, 7 1/2 lengths behind winner Resilience. Owner John Parker and Padilla are going to have some fun with this improving colt who dominated the City of Brotherly Love Stakes at Parx on March 5.

Withers winner Uncle Heavy, with three wins in four starts, was clearly Parx’s best chance at the Derby. Owned by Mike Milam and recent partner Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, Uncle Heavy ran a deceptively good race.

It was not unlike his race in the Pa. Nursery, his only loss when he broke terribly and just had too much to do. He finished fifth that day at Parx and fifth in the Wood, leaving him with 30 Derby points, 25th on the points list where only the top 20 are guaranteed a Derby spot.

Uncle Heavy made a long, sustained move and was just outside Deposition when the colt fell. It seemed to impact Uncle Heavy just enough to throw him off stride. Uncle Heavy was never going to win after that start from the 13 post. Without the stretch incident, however, maybe he finishes third.

Evening News tired in the stretch to finish ninth. Pino figures he’s just not as good on dirt as he was on the Tapeta at Turfway Park.

Bottom line, the Wood winner got just a 90 Beyer, nowhere near good enough to win the Derby. Society Man, sent off at 106-1 after a maiden win following a 15 1/4-length defeat to Uncle Heavy in the Withers, was second. Protective, still a maiden after three starts, finished third at 38-1.

This was not, as it has not been for years, a strong Derby prep. In fact, as David Grening of the “Daily Racing Form’’ pointed out, none of the last 41 Wood horses that ran in the Derby, finished better than fourth.

That doesn’t mean the Parx Four can’t win some big races. They can. This Derby, with proven horses like Fierceness and Sierra Leone, is probably just too big of an ask.

“They did get their legs tangled up a little bit,” Reid said at Aqueduct of the incident. “I think Heavy lost his concentration a little bit. The jock (Mychel Sanchez) wasn’t sure how to react. Everybody kind of froze from that point on which I can’t blame anybody for.”

“But anyway, he came back well so far. It looked at the three eighths pole, I thought he was a winner to be honest with you. Moving well. Can’t say anything bad about what Mychel did. He saved ground into the first turn which was kind of what we were looking for. A little wide on the second turn, but he had clear sailing. No big excuses, but he did get a little flustered by the incident that happened inside of him.”

Sanchez certainly has not lost any faith in Uncle Heavy. He understood all the in-race circumstances better than anybody.

“I was able to drop in, but still lost a lot of ground,” he said. “I was far back. I feel like he ran a big race. We made up so much ground. When you’ve got to ask your horse all the way around to make up all that ground, sometimes it takes a lot for them to finish up.”

The stretch incident, of course, did not help, but unless your horse is Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup, you can’t expect a horse to keep coming forever.

If there was a Parx disappointment, it was Maximus Meridius in The Bay Shore, the race before the Wood. Sent off as the 2-1 second choice for LC Racing and Chuck Zacney’s Cash Is King and trained by Reid, Maximus Meridius was given a dream trip by Sanchez just off the early speed in the 7-furlong race. When he ran by the leaders on the turn and opened up many lengths in the stretch, it really looked over. Then, with no warning, the colt’s stride began to shorten 200 yards out and 15-1 Reasoned Analysis, a recent maiden winner, blew by him. MM easily held second, but Reid allowed that he was very disappointed not to win it.

Yo Yo Candy (trainer Danny Velazquez), who won the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga last summer at 46-1, made his first start of 2024 in The Bay Shore. The colt, at odds of 51-1, had a terrible start, but made a nice middle move before settling for sixth. Better days ahead.

The super consistent Carmelina (Zacney, Bennett, Reid), with four wins in seven starts and a second in the March 2 Busher, was 9-1 in The Gazelle. She set a moderate pace under Sanchez, but the 9 furlongs was likely a furlong or two longer than her optimum distance. She ended up seventh.

All in all, the Parx Seven accounted for $137,400 in purse money and, most importantly, got home safely.



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