Penn National offers numerous stakes on Saturday

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Ted Black

June 2nd, 2016

One week before the nation focuses its attention on the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown for three-year-old colts, the centerpiece of an exceptional card at Belmont, horse players will give several of the races at Penn National this weekend more than a casual glimpse.

Earning top billing on the card is the $500,000 Penn Mile on the turf for three-year-olds, a race that has suddenly found a niche on the schedule and already earned graded status. This year's edition of the Penn Mile includes a number of recognizable faces from the sophomore colt group - including a Kentucky Derby starter - and a fast filly looking to tackle the boys for the first time.

Clearly the most recognizable name on the list of starters in the Penn Mile is Oscar Nominated, a former $75,000 claimer who won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and then was supplemented to the Kentucky Derby by owners Ken & Sarah Ramsey where he finished a nondescript 17th. Soon after being claimed by the Ramseys and trainer Mike Maker, Oscar Nominated won a minor stakes at the Fair Grounds on the grass and later won the Spiral, but the jury may still be out on his true turf fondness.

Last fall Airoforce was easily among the nation's best juvenile turf runners, winning three of four starts and performing well in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland. But he has been the beaten favorite in all three of his starts this year and has yet to hit the board. He will likely garner ample support again in the Penn Mile as a genuine recognizable face among this division, but he hardly seems worth backing at another modest price.

Perhaps the most intriguing horse in the Penn Mile is the razor-sharp sophomore filly, Catch A Glimpse, who has won all six of her starts on the turf, including her three outings this year and a victory in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly Turf last fall. Catch A Glimpse will tackle boys for the first time in the Penn Mile, but she certainly has the best recent form among any of the starters and could be a budding star on the horizon.

The $150,000 Governor's Cup at five furlongs on the Penn National lawn features a rematch between Ben's Cat and Spring To The Sky, the one-two finishers in the recent Jim McKay Turf Stakes at Pimlico. Ben's Cat has won both of his starts this year at age 10 and sports a commendable 32-9-4 slate and $2.6 million bankroll from 55 career tries for Hall of Fame trainer King T. Leatherbury. This Parker's Storm Cat homebred appears destined for the Maryland-bred Hall of Fame when his career finally concludes.

Spring To The Sky has carved out a nice career on the grass as well, posting a 7-6-3 slate and $534,000 bankroll from 33 lifetime outings. He was second to Ben's Cat in the Jim McKay and was finishing well in that event and looms the main danger to the ageless wonder. Cyclogenesis has won three of six starts, but makes his seasonal debut seven months after running 10th as the 5-2 favorite in the Grade II Nearctic at Woodbine. He has plenty of ability, but also gaps in his record indicate ample soundness issues.

Only five runners will go postward in the $200,000 Mountainview Stakes on the main track, but the nine-furlong affair could prove interesting despite the compact field.

Red Rifle has won seven of 24 starts and banked over $900,000 for trainer Todd Pletcher, but most of his recent races have been on the grass. S'Marvelous won the Grade II New Orleans at 20-1 before finishing fifth in the Grade II, $1.25 million Charles Town Classic. Charitable Annuity finished ninth in the Charles Town Classic on his home track, but came right back to win an allowance race there for trainer James W. Casey. Edge Of Reality has won seven of 27 overall, but he has four of seven starts and banked almost $350,000 on wet tracks, so trainer Graham Motion could be the only conditioner doing a rain dance on Saturday.

The Penn Oaks for three-year-old fillies offers a good mix of sophomores. Involuntary has won both of her starts and Tipplin Ways won her lone outing at Laurel. Outsider Art won her first two starts for trainer Jonathan Sheppard but has been unsuccessful in three tries against Grade III rivals. Conquest Serenade has won her last two outings, while Pricedtoperfection owns a 2-1-2 slate from six starts and took the Grade III Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream. Sweet Victory has won her last two at Gulfstream for Pletcher and looms a threat.