Quality racing during week of Thanksgiving

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Ted Black

November 20th, 2018

While many Americans will be on the highways on Wednesday afternoon and evening heading toward their Thanksgiving Day destinations, serious racing fans of both breeds will keep a close eye on the action that evening at Penn National and Dover Downs.

Wednesday's card at Penn National begins with an intriguing maiden special weight event for two-year-old colts and geldings that could offer a nice start to the weekend. Press Virginia, a West Virginia-bred son of Blame who fetched $55,000 at the Keeneland select sale and is now trained by John Servis, will make his career debut in this one-turn affair. Press Virginia arrives with a string of seven good workouts, five of which were bullets, and should return a nice price against open maiden special weight foes.

One race later it will be the two-year-old fillies on display in the $100,000 Blue Mountain Stakes for state-bred juveniles. I'm A Unicorn has won twice in five starts and Tara's Talent owns one win in three tries while Ujjayi won at first asking and looms a major player despite her lack of experience facing winners.

Then one race later in the $150,000 Swatara Stakes for older males, Dr. Blarney looms the solid favorite. The five-year-old Dublin gelding has won six of seven starts and earned nearly $180,000 this year and boasts 17 wins and nearly $520,000 banked from 24 lifetime tries. Maryland-bred John Jones could pose a threat in this spot for trainer Lacey Gaudet.

Then one race later in the main event, another Maryland-bred, Lewisfield, could occupy the favorite's role by post time for the $200,000 Fabulous Strike at six furlongs. The speedy four-year-old son of Great Notion trained by Jeff Runco arrives off a sharp score in the $125,000 Maryland Million Sprint and owns three wins and $215,000 banked from eight starts this year and a solid 6-3-2 slate and $300,000 bankroll from 13 lifetime tries for owner-breeder Linda Zang.

Among the serious contenders in the Fabulous Strike are Always Sunshine and Life In Shambles. Always Sunshine has won twice in six starts this year and earned $130,000 and also owns an 8-5-3 slate and nearly $520,000 banked from 25 career tries. Life In Shambles has won only once in six starts this year but sports a solid 9-7-4 slate and over $600,000 banked from 40 career outings. Coincidentally, Lewisfield, Always Sunshine and Life In Shambles are also entered for Thursday's $200,000 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct.

Wednesday evening at Dover Downs, a full field of 10 sophomore pacing colts will go postward in the $35,000 Hap Hensen Progress Pace elimination, but only eight of them will return for the $350,000 final on Thursday, November 29.

Among those looking to earn a berth in the lucrative finale are Dorsoduro Hanover (Matt Kakaley), Jimmy Freight (Scott Zeron), Thinkbig Dreambig (Yannick Gingras) and This Is The Plan (Tim Tetrick). Dorsoduro Hanover has won 10 of 20 starts and earned over $1.2 million this year for trainer Ron Burke, including an emphatic score in the Breeders Crown final at Pocono Downs. Jimmy Freight sports 10 wins and $665,000 banked from 19 starts and Thinkbig Dreambig owns a 7-4-3 slate and nearly $500,000 earned from 19 outings for Jimmy Takter. This Is The Plan will leave from post nine in the second tier.