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Double derby Saturday

Thought we were done with derbies for the year? Not quite. This Saturday, the Pennsylvania Derby and the Super Derby will mix up the 3-year-olds yet again in graded stakes competition in what will likely be their last big bout before the Breeders’ Cup, should they choose to accept that mission. Fortunately for these two fields, the best 3-year-old male in the country will not be facing them, as Lookin at Lucky is being pointed to the Indiana Derby next Saturday. But this doesn’t mean these two races won’t be extremely competitive without Bob Baffert’s star colt.

The Grade II Super Derby, to be run for $500,000 at Louisiana Downs, is an intriguing one. Hurricane Ike is the morning-line favorite, and he will be taking on only five other contenders for the nice purse; the most notable of these challengers is the undefeated Golden Moka, winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Prior to that race, Golden Moka raced only in Panama. With his record of 4 wins in 4 lifetime starts, he is the most lightly-raced horse in the field. The second most lightly-raced challenger in this race is Apart, a winner of 2 from 5 lifetime starts and trained by Al Stall. Apart will have to fill some pretty big shoes if he wants to live up to the expectations of Stall’s Super Derby entrant last year, Blame, who ran 2nd in the 2009 edition. Hurricane Ike has faced a tested bunch of horses on his path to the Super Derby. Last time out, he finished 4th in the King’s Bishop at Saratoga to sprint star Discreetly Mine. But before that, Ike won the Derby Trial convincingly and was pit against some tough competition in races prior to that, trounced by such horses as Lookin at Lucky, Noble’s Promise, and Eightyfiveinafifty. If rated according to the tough horses he’s faced, Ike is a suitable favorite in the Super Derby, but he will be up against it when pitted against the imposing Golden Moka.

First DudeEveryone wants a chunk of the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby’s $1 million-dollar purse, and so the race has drawn a formidable field of 3-year-olds. The morning line favorite is First Dude, but that is a role that could easily be relinquished to Exhi, a colt who was on a four-race win streak until his most recent start, when he was vanquished by Concord Point in the West Virginia Derby. In contrast, First Dude has only one win under his belt, and only reserves the role as favorite thanks to his consistent record; he is the only horse in his crop to have run and finished in the money in two of this year’s Triple Crown races. Jim Dandy winner A Little Warm will be joining the fray to prove his win in that race was no fluke; last time out, A Little Warm finished fifth in the Travers, but that was his first time stretching out to a 1 ¼-mile race, and will likely appreciate the cutback in distance here. New shooter Morning Line could pose as a potential upset; with a record of 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 5 stars, this late-blooming Tiznow colt will be entering his stakes debut in the Pennsylvania Derby. Morning Line won his last race at the same 11/8th-mile distance at Saratoga. Afleet Again may make a run for the big money, but Exhi and First Dude make the Pennsylvania Derby a far cry from an easy race to upset.

For the challengers in these two races, these derbies will almost certainly mark the last time they face a field restricted to their own age group. From here on, they will be pitted against older horses and be facing some tougher battles ahead. Now is the time for these 3-year-olds to step up and show their mettle against their own class. It has become increasingly likely that many of these young horses will return to run again next year if they remain fit, giving us all the more reason to follow them while they are only beginning to leave their mark on the racing world.

The Grade II Super Derby will post at approximately 5:23pm ET and be aired live from Louisiana Downs on HRTV.

The Grade II Pennsylvania Derby will post at approximately 6:08pm ET and be aired live from Parx Racing (formerly Philadelphia Park) on TVG.

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