The Player’s Edge – May 31, 2013: Penn National & Hollywood Park

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Matt Carter

May 31st, 2013



photo: Matt Carter


Penn National – Penn Mile


Penn National – Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup


Penn National – Mountainview Handicap


Hollywood Park – Californian Stakes


Penn National – Penn Mile
Inaugural Running Draws Eight

Saturday is a great day at Penn National, the small track in Grantville, PA, with five stake races on the card highlighted by the $500,000 Penn Mile. The one-mile turf race drew a field of eight led by the American Turf winner Noble Tune.

Noble Tune comes into the race as the horse to beat and most likely the best three-year-old turf horse in the country. Last year he was two-for-three with his only loss coming in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He is a perfect two-for-two this year, but will be tested to make it three straight.

Noble Tune ran a bang up race in the American Turf on Kentucky Oaks day, winning by a length and three-quarters over Admiral Kitten, who came right back to be a very good second in a stakes race on the turf at Arlington Park last weekend. Also out of that race the fourth place finisher, Joelito, came right back to win a turf allowance race at Hollywood Park on Wednesday.

The main competitors to the favorite took a different route to the Penn Mile, but they are good in their own right. One of the horses, Charming Kitten, even ran in the Kentucky Derby.

We start with Rydilluc, who is a perfect three-for-three on turf. He won the Grade 3 Palm Beach in near wire-to-wire fashion then was fourth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass over the Polytrack at Keeneland in his last. Back on turf, Rydilluc is the horse to catch.

Sitting off the early pace of Rydilluc, and any of the other long shots who are going sprint-to-route, will be Jack Milton, winner of the Grade 3 Transylvania on the Keeneland turf course in April. The son of War Front’s only loss came in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park to Fire Guard, a long shot Juddmonte Farm-owned colt. Jack Milton will have first run on the leaders and will try to hold off Noble Tune and Charming Kitten.

Charming Kitten is a Kitten’s Joy horse that loves the turf as he has yet to be worse than third in five starts over the surface. Kitten’s Joy was second in the Grade 2 With Anticipation last year and second in the Palm Beach this year. He must; however, find three and a half lengths on Rydilluc, which was the margin of defeat at Gulfstream.

Of the other four, Are You Kidding Me looks to have the best chance getting into the trifecta or superfecta at a price. The Run Away and Hide colt was only beaten a nose by Noble Tune at Tampa in March and was second in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes at Woodbine last year.

Not only did the race draw some top horses from top trainers, it also drew some of the best jockeys. Javier Castellano, John Velazquez, Edgar Prado and Joel Rosario will all have mounts in the race. Velazquez and Rosario won the last two Kentucky Derby’s aboard Animal Kingdom and Orb while Prado won the Derby in 2006 aboard Barbaro.

Post time for the Penn Mile is 7:26 pm ET.


Penn National – Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup
Ben’s Cat Meets Ten

Two races prior to the Penn Mile at Penn National on Saturday is the traditional feature race during the year at the track, the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup. The five furlong turf dash drew a field of 11 led by Ben’s Cat, who won the race in 2011. The horses in this race have won almost $6-million in total purses.

Ben’s Cat is about as consistent as they come with 21 wins in 31 starts. The seven-year-old gelding has won almost $1.5-million and has won on fast dirt, wet dirt, firm turf and soft turf. He comes out of a win in the $100,000 Turf Sprint at Pimlico on Black-Eyed Susan day and is the horse to beat. Really the only obstacle to overcome for the favorite is post position. From the far outside post, Ben’s Cat will need to find a spot to tuck in or risk being wide the whole trip.

Also coming out of the Turf Sprint at Pimlico is Bridgetown, who drew better in post nine and is making his second start off a six-month layoff. Last year Bridgetown won the Grade 3 Woodford at Kenneland and has won half of his 16 turf sprints.

The horse they all may have to catch is Tightend Touchdown, a four-year-old gelding who has won his last two races and is a neck away from winning three straight. With the rail draw, jockey Javier Castellano has no other choice but to send. He may be better at six furlongs than five, but speed is always dangerous.

Joel Rosario rode Tightend Touchdown in his last race, but will now have the mount on Icon Ike, a late-running sprinter trained by Larry Jones. Icon Ike is a definite turf sprint specialist and should improve off his seventh place finish in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, which was run over a good turf course.

Chamberlain Bridge was second in the Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs and won the Governor’s Cup in 2010. Now nine-years-old, Chamberlain Bridge has won 19 times for earning of just under $2-million. Saturday will be the 51st start of his career, by far the most in the field. Look for him to be doing his best running around the sixteenth pole.

Chamberlain Bridge won in 2010, Ben’s Cat in 2011 and the 2012 winner Kyma is also in the this year’s field. Kyma was sent off as the 34-1 outsider in the field last year, but rallied strongly to win by a neck. He was then eighth in the Grade 3 Turf Monster over a soft Parx turf course before taking some time off. The five-year-old gelding came back in style earlier this month at Presque Isle Downs, winning an allowance race by a neck. He doesn’t always win by a lot, four of his six wins have been by a neck or less, but he has only tasted defeat three times in his nine race career. .

Catalactic, Sneaking Uponyou, Fufty Too, Snow Leopard and Tiempo Libre complete the field with post time scheduled for 6:28 pm ET.


Penn National – Mountainview Handicap
Eight Older Horses Go Nine

In between the Governor’s Cup and Penn Mile on Saturday under the Blue Mountain is the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap. Eight horses will travel the nine furlongs and contention runs deep.

The morning line favorite for the race is Rattlesnake Bridge, a five-year-old that has only been worse than third in two of his ten career starts. As a three-year-old the Tapit horse won two of eight races and was second in the Grade 1 Travers and third in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby. He was off from November 2011 until March of this year when he won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Off of that he was third in the Grade 3 Westchester behind Flat Out and Cross Traffic. Cross Traffic came back last weekend and ran too good to lose in the Met Mile when he was beaten by a dirty nose over the late running Sahara Sky.

In a race that looks to have very little pace, Rattlesnake Bridge could be on the lead or he could be sitting just off the pace of Pants On Fire, the winner of the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in 2011. The connections are still trying to find where the five-year-old horse fits class wise, but he has been knocking heads with some of the best during the Gulfstream Park meet. In his last race he finished third behind Cigar Street and Take Charge Indy, who came right back to score in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on Oaks day.

One of the horses Take Charge Indy defeated in the Alysheba was Macho Macho, who is also in the Mountainview and his connections are hoping for better luck at the start.

Macho Macho won the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby last year and was second in the Pennsylvania Derby, not a bad way to end his three-year-old campaign. He then tackled elders for the first time in March in the New Orleans Handicap and ran well to be fourth behind Graydar, Mark Valeski and Bourbon Courage. It was the perfect prep for the Alysheba; however, when Cyber Secret came over after the start, Macho Macho became the odd horse out and was second to last early. Draw a line through that race and he fits very well on Saturday. Jockey Joel Rosario has the mount.

Easter Gift if an interesting shipper for trainer Chad Brown, who also has Noble Tune in the Penn Mile. The four-year-old colt has won back-to-back races at Aqueduct and Parx and when trained by Nick Zito, won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx in 2012. Easter Gift gets the class test this weekend, but he may just be up to the task. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche should have the Hard Spun colt in mid-pack or even close depending on the speed.

The two local hopes rest with Norman Asbjornson and Great Investment.

Norman Asbjornson is stabled in Maryland and not trained by a Penn National-based trainer; however, he is Pennsylvania-bred and is part owned by Tom McClay, a Board member of the Pennsylvania HBPA at Penn National. Norman Asbjornson has made over $407,000 in his 21 race career and has a win and two seconds at Penn National.

Great Investment is stabled at Penn National, trained by a Penn National-based trainer and will once again be ridden by Erick Stunk-Micklos. Great Investment has won four straight races, three in a row for trainer John Conner and owners Double Bogey Racing. The five-year-old gelding has yet to look any horses in the eye of the quality he will face on Saturday, but a winning horse is a dangerous horse.

It’s an excellent day at Penn National with first post scheduled for 6:00 pm ET. Race one starts the pick-4, which includes all three of the main stake races as well as the first running of the $60,000 Silver Train HBPA Stakes for Pennsylvania fillies and mares. Post time for the Mountainview is 6:56.


Hollywood Park – Californian Stakes
Contentious Field of Seven

The feature race on Saturday at Hollywood Park is the 60th running of the Grade 2 Californian Stakes for three-year-olds and upward going nine furlongs on the main track. The race drew a field of seven; let’s take a look.

Morning line favorite for the race is Liaison, who is three-for-five at Hollywood Park and is coming off a huge win in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap in early May. The Indian Charlie colt also won the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity over the course in December 2011. Look for him early, doing battle with Blueskiesnrainbows, who was previously a stablemate.

Blueskiesnrainbows has won once in four starts since transferring to Jerry Hollendorfer from Bob Baffert and was fourth in the Mervyn LeRoy as the 2-1 post-time favorite. By English Channel, Blueskiesnrainbows won the nine furlong Swaps over the track last July and he should be able to cruise early with the longer distance unless long shot Batti Man goes with him.

Batti Man is 15-1 on the morning line, but would cause chaos if he sends, which on paper it looks like he will do. That will set the race up perfectly for Clubhouse Ride and Kettle Corn.

Clubhouse Ride has finished second in his last three starts, all against Game On Dude, who is thankfully not in the Californian on Saturday. Clubhouse Ride hasn’t demolished the field behind him getting up by a nose in his last two starts, but he is a closer in a race with some pace. Jockey Garrett Gomez will have him in a perfect position turning for home.

Kettle Corn looks set to run his best and has always improved his speed figure second off the layoff. He was beat a length and one-half by Liaison in the Mervyn LeRoy and now gets an extra half-furlong to run down that rival. The caveat is that he has only won once in his last nine starts and that was by a neck in a five horse field on the turf last November. Win or lose, he is a must use in the trifecta play.

The trip horse may be Oilisblackgold, who projects to sit just behind the speed horses and perhaps far enough in front of the closers to get the jump on them. He is winless in five starts at Hollywood; however, and winless in 12 starts on a synthetic track.

Rounding out the field is the long shot Holladay Road, winner of seven of his 20 lifetime career starts. He was good enough to be third in the Grade 3 Inglewood over the turf in April 2012, but has yet to be better than third in four starts since.

Post time for the Californian is 7:38 pm ET.