BENSALEM, Pa. — Chad Brown is so hot he doesn’t even need to show up to win a million-dollar race. The all-conquering trainer dominated summer at Saratoga, and on the first Saturday of fall Brown’s colt Connect pulled an upset in the $1.25-million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx.
Brown’s assistant Cherie DeVaux saddled Connect, a 10-1 shot who surged up a wide-open rail on the stretch turn and held off Gun Runner by a half-length. The boss watched from Belmont Park, where he won the Noble Damsel. Brown also took a stakes at Laurel, so he had a pretty typical day.
While Javier Castellano stayed inside on Connect, Florent Geroux took Gun Runner into the middle of the track. They were getting to Connect at the finish but couldn’t compensate for losing so much ground.
“Connect broke very well and found himself in a good position along the rail,’’ DeVaux said. “Javier was very patient with him. He made the one run and was very gutsy to hang in there.’’
So was Gun Runner, whose only off-the-board finishes in 10 races were on wet tracks. “He’s been running well in all the big races all year,” Geroux said. “It’s kind of bittersweet what he did today.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen felt the same way. “He ran a solid race and beat the horses who beat him in the Kentucky Derby,’’ he said. “But I kind of planned on winning today.”
The big disappointments were Derby winner Nyquist, sixth as the 6-5 favorite, and Preakness and Haskell champion Exaggerator, who plodded in seventh, seven lengths behind Nyquist. Exaggerator, the Derby runner-up, is 3-for-3 in slop this year and 0-for-6 on fast tracks.
“No excuses,” trainer Doug O’Neill said after Nyquist’s third consecutive loss following an 8-for-8 start. “Take him home and regroup.”
Connect ($23.50) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.20 for his fourth win in six starts and earned $750,000 for Paul Pompa Jr. He rebounded from a sixth-place dud in the Travers, 21 lengths behind Arrogate.
Songbird wins Cotillion. As always, it couldn’t have been easier for Songbird. The superstar 3-year-old filly remained perfect and untested as she coasted to a 5¾-length victory over Carina Mia in the $1-million Cotillion Stakes.
Songbird’s average margin in 11 wins for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is more than 5½ lengths, and Mike Smith admits he’s more of a passenger than a pilot. “It all comes totally easy to her,” he said. “I think I had to ask her to run once, for maybe a hundred yards, in the Coaching Club American Oaks.”
Songbird ($2.60) glided 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.02 and earned $610,000, raising her bankroll above $3.37 million. Owner Rick Porter said she would train up to the 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita. He again ruled out facing males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“All along we thought about sticking with the girls,” Porter said. “Jerry doesn’t like to run fillies against the boys. I do, but only if I win.”