An afterthought by many entering last month's West Virginia Derby, Soul Warrior now becomes a central focus to Monday's Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park.
Soul Warrior drew post 6 in a field of nine 3-year-olds entered Friday for Monday's Pennsylvania Derby at 1 1/8 miles. The Pennsylvania Derby will go as race 10 on an 11-race card that begins at noon. The card also includes the $250,000 Turf Monster Handicap at five furlongs.
In a race where both Mine That Bird and Big Drama were below even-money, Soul Warrior rallied from a dozen lengths back to nip Big Drama by a neck in the West Virginia Derby. He was part of a 23-1 entry along with Sunday Sunrise in a six-horse field with five betting interests.
"Very proud of his last race and he earned it," said Steve Asmussen, trainer of Soul Warrior. "When Mine That Bird came to him at the half-mile pole, he stayed inside of him just to hold his spot and then won late. He ran tough in the West Virginia Derby, he really did."
In the West Virginia Derby, Soul Warrior carried 111 pounds, four less than Big Drama and 11 less than Mine That Bird. Monday, he'll carry 122 pounds along with Our Edge, whom trainer Nick Zito wheels back just nine days after the colt was eased in the Travers.
"It does matter, but he's a big heavy horse who carries plenty of weight of his own," Asmussen said of Soul Warrior picking up 11 pounds.
Robby Albarado has picked up the mount on Soul Warrior, replacing the injured Dale Beckner.
Zito has won the Pennsylvania Derby with Sun King and Anak Nakal. Monday, he sends out Our Edge, who had reeled off three consecutive victories entering the Aug. 29 Travers. In the Travers, Our Edge set the pace for the first six furlongs but was basically done entering the far turn.
In addition to wearing bar shoes for the fourth straight race, Our Edge also lost a shoe during the running of the Travers, got stepped on and suffered two grabbed quarters. However, Zito said the horse healed up quickly - he certainly looked fine galloping over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track Friday - and deserves another chance. Zito said he will likely remove the bar shoes from Our Edge on Monday.
"Hopefully, we get a fast track and let him do his thing," said Zito, whose horse breaks from post 8.
Join in the Dance, who set the pace in the Kentucky Derby before finishing seventh, will likely be in front early on Monday as he breaks from the rail.
Duke of Mischief, who soundly defeated Soul Warrior in the Iowa Derby before finishing fifth to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational, figures to be a major player in this field. Eibar Coa rides from post 4.
Others entered include Endymion, Kelly Leak, Denver, Gone Astray, and Bunker Hill.