Nine 3-year-olds will face off in the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) Sept. 7 at Philadelphia Park Casino and Racetrack, led by Zayat Stables' Soul Warrior, the 3-1 morning line favorite.
Soul Warrior drew post 6 in the nine-furlong test and will be ridden by Robby Albarado. Campaigned by trainer Steve Asmussen, Soul Warrior came into his 3-year-old season with aspirations of competing in the spring classics. Less than stellar efforts in the Risen Star (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at the Fair Grounds derailed those hopes and the Lion Heart colt was given a three month rest. The time off served him well.
Soul Warrior returned to the races in early June to a convincing win in a first level allowance at Churchill Downs before heading off to Prairie Meadows and a strong second in the Iowa Derby. His most recent start was his best yet. Sent off at 23-1 against the likes of Mine That Bird and Big Drama, he rallied from just off the pace to win the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) by a hard fought neck.
Second choice at 7-2 in the evenly-matched Pennsylvania Derby field is Duke of Mischief. The Graeme Hall colt, owned by Alex & Joann Lieblong, Marilyn McMaster, and trainer David Fawkes, met up with Soul Warrior in the Iowa Derby on June 26 and came home a five-length winner.
Following that first stakes win at Prairie Meadows, "The Duke" took on Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and finished a very respectable fifth, finishing eight lengths behind Rachel, and only two lengths behind the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and subsequent Shadwell Travers (gr. I) winner, Summer Bird. Eibar Coa will ride for Fawkes.
One of the more intriguing entrants is Kelly Leak. The Runaway Groom colt sports a very interesting resume. After winning his first career start last June at Hollywood Park, he came right back in just his second start to finish first in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) only to be disqualified for stretch interference.
Kelly Leak opened his 3-year-old season with a solid third behind This One's for Phil in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream Jan. 24. Two months later, he came from well off the pace to win the $800,000 Sunland Derby, beating the soon-to-be Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird. Following that victory and a four-month layoff, he came back to the races August 2 with a sixth-place finish in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II), his first start against older horses.
Mike Smith will come east to ride for trainer Michael Machowsky and Kelly Leak will open at a price of 8-1.
Trainer Nick Zito, who already has two Pennsylvania Derby wins (Sun King in 2005 and Anak Nakal in 2008), will send his improving colt, Our Edge. Owned by Robert LaPenta, the son of The Cliff's Edge is coming into the race off short rest, having set the pace in the Aug. 29 Travers. He had come into the Travers having won three straight, including a front-running, seven-length victory in the Barbaro Stakes (gr. III) July 19 at Delaware Park. Alan Garcia will come in for the ride.