Jockey Frankie Pennington
Frankie Pennington is scheduled to ride in 12 of the 13 races on Saturday’s betPARX Pennsylvania Derby Day card at Parx Racing. The Texas-born rider’s most significant call of the day comes aboard B Dawk in the headlining Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.
The Joseph E Besecker- and West Point Thoroughbreds-owned B Dawk, named after former Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame Safety Brian Dawkins, will make a significant jump in class in his first graded stakes test in his ninth start off an allowance victory at Ellis Park .
A proud Dallas Cowboys fan in Philadelphia Eagles country, and currently Parx’s second-leading rider, Pennington will ride the Gormley colt for the first time. He also looks to give trainer Doug O Neill back-to-back Pennsylvania Derby wins after he scored with Hot Rod Charlie last year.
“I’ve looked at the races and I’ve been on him the past three mornings and he’s doing good. He’s very happy,” said Pennington. “It’s always good to get a feel for the horse and that way you can kind of see what they like. That horse, since he’s been in, he’s been professional and classy the whole time. Anytime you can ride at your home track and ride in a Grade 1 for a trainer like Doug O’Neill, it’s a great feeling.”
Pennington has eight graded stakes victories in his 20-year career. Four of those wins came at Parx, where he’s hung his tack since 2004. He won the Grade 3 Parx Dash in 2015 with Tightend Touchdown and in 2018 with Vision Perfect, along with the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes in 2019 with Notapradaprice and the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup Stakes in 2021 with Magic Michael.
With 13 races on the day, and 10 being stakes races worth $3.8 million in purses, the competition on the track can be intense. Pennington said the riders leave it on the track, although there is a sense of pride and territory among the local colony.
“We all get along,” Pennington said. “We’re all good, there’s nothing bad. Obviously anytime you’re in your hometown you want to keep the money with you and not let it get out. I imagine that at the other tracks they feel the same way. It’s home turf. If we can help it, we want to try and win everything we can.”
A victory in Saturday’s Derby would mean a lot to the married father of two who owns 2,871 wins from 15,317 starts and earnings of $83,088,305. When asked what he would do, it didn’t take long for his reply.
“I’m going to Disneyland. Yeah, taking the kids to Disneyland, that’s for sure,” said Pennington. “It would definitely be something exciting for sure. It is every time you win but to win your first Grade 1, it would be something special. I’d probably take a day off.”
Unlike Pennington, local jockey Adam Bowman has just two mounts Saturday. The Kentucky-born rider will be aboard Tempted to Touch in the $200,000 Imply Stakes for trainer Herold Whylie. He’ll then try for his first graded stakes victory aboard the Ferrel Mann-trained Beach Daze in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion later in the day.
“I’m really excited,” Bowman said. “We’re 30-1, but I’m going to put her out there, and put her in position to win. If we have a shot turning for home, I’m going to lay down on her and give it everything I got. I rode one earlier in the day and hopefully I can just relax. I can feed off of Frankie and the other guys that are in the room and kind of just take it easy.
“I’ve been riding for 11 years now. I’ve been pretty much at Parx. I never really won anything big. I rode in the Turf Monster once or twice. I’m just excited to be here.”
Bowman, who has 233 wins from 4,049 career rides, will have a fan club win or lose come Saturday.
“I’m going to just keep cool in my head,” he said. “My mom and dad are coming down from the Poconos, my wife my kids. I’m excited to have my kids out here and my wife. They don’t come to the races often, so it will be nice to have everybody here and just relish the moment and enjoy it and we’ll see what happens. I’m excited.”