Handsome Mike, the longest shot on the board closing at 19-1 odds, was the biggest shocker as he took down the favorites to win the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at Parx Racing.
This was a nice bounce-back win for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who had a heartbreaking defeat in the previous race aboard the favorite Questing (GB) at the Cotillion Stakes (G2).
The 3-5 favorite and Travers' co-winner, Alpha, was acting up somewhat at the gate, and at the break he didn't have a good jump, which prompted jockey Ramon Dominguez to take him back in the early going.
The other Travers' co-winner, Golden Ticket (6-1), under David Cohen took the early lead as they passed the finish line for the first time, but then was passed by Csaba (11-1) on the outside and Handsome Mike on the inside.
As they started to take the first turn, Handsome Mike had the lead but Alpha took it away from him, slipping on the inside from the rail under the urging of Dominguez and taking the first quarter fractional in 25.08.
Stephanoatsee (17-1) moved up to third on the rail behind the leaders and Csaba—five wide—settled in fourth while Golden Ticket and second betting choice Macho Macho (3-1) followed the compacted leading pack.
Casual Trick (10-1), with Stewart Elliot, was dead last eight lengths from the lead. At this point and with the slow fractions, it was going to be very tough for him to make up all that ground.
As they reached the backstretch, Ortiz Jr. had placed Handsome Mike back in the lead and Dominguez was content with letting him go and settled in right behind him.
Macho Macho moved up to third with Golden Ticket right to his inside in fourth, Csaba following outside fifth and Stephanoatsee dropping back to sixth.
Handsome Mike continued to lead the pack until they reached the final three furlongs pole, and there Alpha leveled up for the lead on the inside and Csaba started a strong bid on third to his outside.
But as they turned for home, Handsome Mike stretched his lead to a half-length over Alpha and it looked like the pack was going to catch him from behind.
Stephanoatsee was making a strong bid to the inside; Golden Ticket started his just outside of Alpha and Macho Macho was moving on the far outside with Casual Trick.
But Ortiz Jr. started defending his lead with Handsome Mike with a furlong to go and opened up a two-length lead which he maintained holding off Macho Macho and Golden Ticket, who finished second and third in a photo finish.
Then it was just a half-length to Stephanoatsee in fourth; Casual Trick, Alpha and Csaba completed the order of finish.
Alpha and Golden Ticket carried the top weight at 124 pounds with Macho Macho carrying 122. The rest of the horses carried 114 pounds, which seemed to have favored only Handsome Mike.
Macho Macho and Golden Ticket finished second and third with Alpha weakening in the stretch and finishing a very disappointing sixth.
Handsome Mike is a three-year-old whose longshot status was justified having won only once previously at a maiden special weight race last year.
He had come from finishing fourth in three stakes races over three different surfaces; the Vinery Racing Spiral on the all weather track; the Haskell Invitational on dirt; and most recently the Secretariat Stakes over the Arlington turf course.
Handsome Mike is owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O'Neill, the winning connections of Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I'll Have Another.
But the official trainer on the program was Leandro Mora, substituting for O'Neill who is currently serving a 40-day suspension for a TCO2 overage from 2010.
Handsome Mike is a son of Scat Daddy out of the Smart Strike mare Classic Strike, and his record stands now at 10-2-1-1 with career earnings of $756,780.
Pennsylvania Derby | Grade 2 | Purse: $1 million | Distance: 9.0 furlongs | Track: Fast
|3||Handsome Mike||Irad Ortiz Jr.||40.40||14.00||9.80|
|8||Macho Macho||Corey S. Nakatani||5.00||4.20|
|6||Golden Ticket||David Cohen||4.00|
|Also ran: 1 - Stephanoatsee , 2 - Casual Trick , 4 - Alpha , 7 - Csaba|
|Scratched horses: Junebugred (Trainer)|
Winning Owner: J. Paul Reddam|
Winning Trainer: Leandro Mora
|Fractions: 25.08, 49.37, 1:14.02, 1:38.96 Final Time: 1:51.63|