By Tom LaMarra
The top three finishers in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup are among the 12 entered in the grade III, $200,000 Parx Dash, the third of five MATCH Series stakes in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Turf Division.
The Parx Dash at five furlongs on the grass is one of two MATCH events July 7 at Parx Racing; the other is the $100,000 Turf Amazon, a five-furlong stakes that is the third of five in the Filly and Mare Sprint—Turf Division.
Mary Eppler Racing Stable’s Oak Bluffs, currently at the top of the division with 15 points, won the June 2 Governor’s Cup by three-quarters of a length over Pewter Stable’s Dubini. Colts Neck Stables’ Pool Winner was only a neck behind in third.
Oak Bluffs, trained by Mary Eppler, is the only Parx Dash entrant that has started in the two previous division races. The 8-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding finished third behind then-undefeated Imprimis in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico Race Course May 18.
Imprimis passed on the Parx Dash to run in the grade I Highlander Stakes at Woodbine June 30 and finished sixth after a troubled trip. He remains second on the MATCH division leader board, however.
Dubini, trained by Parx-based Kate Demasi, raced extremely well in the Governor’s Cup at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in his first start of 2018. The 5-year-old gelding has raced only nine times with four wins and two seconds, all on the grass.
Patricia Generazio, the breeder of Oak Bluffs, owns Pure Sensation, who was nominated to the Governor’s Cup but instead raced a week later in the grade II Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park. The 7-year-old gelding finished third, beaten only a length, after leading for most of the way in the six-furlong turf stakes.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Pure Sensation is four-for-five at Parx with multiple stakes wins and looms the favorite for the Parx Dash in his third start of the year.
The Turf Amazon attracted a field of nine including Stoneway Farm’s Pretty Perfection and Audley Farm Stable’s Smiling Causeway, who finished second and fifth, respectively, in The Very One Stakes May 19 at Pimlico. The Very One, which kicked off the Filly and Mare Sprint—Turf Division, came off the turf that day because of heavy rain.
Pretty Perfection, trained by Kelly Breen, prepped for the Turf Amazon with a good third-place finish in an open allowance turf sprint at Parx June 18. The 4-year-old filly is tied for third in the division standings based on the one start in MATCH competition.
Trained by Arnaud Delacour, Smiling Causeway figures to rebound after her Pimlico effort on a sloppy track and, in five starts on the grass—all sprints—she has three wins and two seconds.
The probable favorite is Dennis Drazin’s Blue Bahia, a 5-year-old mare who owns an allowance victory at Parx and won a lucrative Claiming Crown event at Gulfstream Park last December. Blue Bahia hasn’t raced since March in Florida but has been training regularly at Monmouth Park for trainer Jason Servis.
Colts Neck Stables Boos, trained by Alan Goldberg, finished a neck ahead of Pretty Perfection in the Parx allowance race June 18 and was fifth in the June 2 Penn Ladies Dash, the second leg of the division. The Turf Amazon will mark the third start of the year for the 4-year-old filly bred in France. The same connections also entered Goldwood, an impressive winner of an allowance/optional claiming race at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf at Laurel Park June 15.
The Pennsylvania-bred 4-year-old filly Quick Thinking would make a quick return in the Turf Amazon as she raced June 30 at Parx and coasted home an easy winner of five-furlong allowance race on the grass. Owned, trained and bred by Elizabeth Merryman, Quick Thinking has two wins so far, both at Parx.
The two turf sprints are the first of four MATCH Series events at the Pennsylvania track this year. The other two are the $100,000 Sal DeBunda President’s Cup (3-Year-Olds and Up Long—Dirt Division) Aug. 25 and the $100,000 Roamin Rachel Stakes (Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt Division) Sept. 15, the final weekend of the MATCH Series for 2018.