Handsome Mike Wins Pennsylvania Derby
Dead-heat Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Golden Ticket was third, while Travers co-winner Alpha finished sixth as the 3-5 favorite, both shouldering 124 pounds. Handsome Mike, under a 114-pound impost and sent off as the longest shot in a field of seven sophomores, went 1 1/8 miles in a slow 1:51.63. He crossed the wire two lengths clear of West Virginia Derby (gr. II) winner Macho Macho.
In two races prior to the Pennsylvania Derby—the Aug. 18 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) on the Arlington Park lawn and the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on dirt at Monmouth Park—Handsome Mike ran fourth while sent off at 19-1. The son of Scat Daddy was also fourth in the Vinery Spiral Stakes (gr. III) on Polytrack at Turfway Park in March, albeit at shorter odds.
Handsome Mike placed himself forwardly at the start of the Pennsylvania Derby under restraint from jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. He naturally inherited the lead as Ramon Dominguez struggled to settle a fractious Alpha, who had been irate in the gate and was momentarily pinched at the break. Alpha headed Handsome Mike after a steady quarter in :25.08, but the eventual winner simply increased his tempo on the outside to regain control through a half in :49.37 and three-quarters in 1:14.02.
The race was wide open as Handsome Mike carried his advantage into the stretch, but none of the closing sophomores could make an impact. Handsome Mike led by a length at the furlong mark and gradually increased his advantage to the wire, with Macho Macho rallying from fifth at the head of the lane to his runner-up position inside the final furlong. Golden Ticket was a neck back to complete the trifecta after getting outfinished.
Handsome Mike returned $40.40, $14, and $9.80, while Macho Macho brought $5 and $4.20 and Golden Ticket paid $4. Stephanoatsee, Casual Trick, Alpha, and Csaba completed the order of finish. Junebugred scratched to run in the Oct. 6 Indiana Derby (gr. II).
Handsome Mike previously raced for trainer Doug O'Neill, but his top assistant Leandro Mora was the conditioner this time while O'Neill concludes a 40-day suspension he began Aug. 19. O'Neill, who saddled I'll Have Another to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) earlier in the season, will return to training Sept. 28 at Santa Anita Park.
The winning dark bay colt was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis out of the Smart Strike mare Classic Strike. He raced for Liviakis and trainer Melody Conlon three times in California, including his maiden score at Santa Anita on Oct. 16 last year and a runner-up finish on turf in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) last November at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Racing in the 2011 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) after being purchased privately by Reddam, Handsome Mike finished seventh. He started 2012 with a fourth in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) and a third in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields before making the trek to Turfway.
The Pennsylvania Derby win increased the colt's earnings to $756,780 with a 2-1-1 record from 10 starts.
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