Penn National: Fabulous Strike night storylines
by Frank Vespe
Penn National Race Course takes its final big swing of 2017 Wednesday evening with a 10-race card enlivened by three stakes races. Post time for the card is 6:00 p.m.
Topping the card is the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for older runners that’s attracted a field of eight. Among the past Fabulous Strike winners is the late Ben’s Cat, who won the event three times. The Fabulous Strike will go as race four, and it is preceded by the Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies (race two) for Pennsylvania-bred two-year-old fillies and the 1 1/16 mile Swatara for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles.
Some story lines to watch from the three stakes:
Are dirt and Lasix the answer for Bronx Beauty? The 2-1 favorite in the Blue Mountain won her first two, the second in the off-the-turf Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park for trainer Anthony Margotta. But she was a well beaten fourth, as the favorite, in a minor stake at Presque Isle. Here the morning line favorite, she’ll get Lasix for the first time and return to the surface where she’s two-for-two. Luis Saez will ride.
Speaking of first Lasix, what about Indian Beauty? Are ya sensing a “beauty” theme here in the Blue Mountain? Indian Beauty, trained by Bernie Houghton, won her debut by a half-dozen lengths against maiden special weight rivals late last month. The show horse from that race returned to defeat maiden special weight rivals in her follow-up. Indian Beauty gets Lasix here for the first time, as well, and David Cora will ride.
How does defending champ Charitable Annuity stack up in the Swatara? West Virginia-bred Charitable Annuity won this event impressively last year to cap off a six-win season in which he earned just shy of $300,000. He arrives this year with more modest credentials: two wins from eight starts, including a third-place finish last out in the A Huevo at Charles Town. He did win the West Virginia Breeders Classic two races back but will need to step it up here. Christian Hiraldo will ride for James W. Casey.
Can John Jones get back to his winning ways in the Swatara? Maryland-bred John Jones was a terrific claim for trainer Lacey Gaudet last year, winning five times, twice in stakes company, after being claimed for $25,000 mid-year. But with one thing and another, he missed most of 2017 and has been fourth and seventh in two tries since returning, last out being well beaten as the favorite in the Maryland Million Classic. He’ll need to find the form that brought him such success last year to be in the mix here. Todd Pletcher trainee Tommy Macho (5-2), a multiple graded stakes winner, is favored.
Do both halves of the Jacobson entry go in the Fabulous Strike? A year ago David Jacobson trainee Chief Lion gacked up a five-length lead in the last furlong of this event and settled for third. This year the trainer’s trying to double his chances: he has both Chief Lion and $1.5 million earner Stallwalkin’ Dude (2-1) entered as a coupled entry. The former is a speedster who figures to be a part of the pace mix from the first jump. while the latter is a classy closer who’s won his last four against ungraded company — and may very well have the exact pace scenario he’s seeking here, what with other speed types like Favorite Tale (4-1) and local hopeful Gold Man (12-1) among the rivals.
Can Blu Moon Ace keep it rolling here? Maryland-bred Blu Moon Ace is a neck short of having a four-race win streak, that neck having come when second by that margin in the Grade 3 De Francis Dash at Laurel Park. He also took the Coalition Stakes prior to that event and the Maryland Million Sprint after and has shown the ability to stalk or lead. Julian Pimentel will ride a runner who’s 5-2 on the morning line for trainer Kevin Patterson, who’s won 37 of 82 starts (45 percent!) this year.