by Ted Black
While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts are eagerly looking forward to the June 8 Belmont Stakes and the strong supporting card at Belmont Park that day, a good portion of the spotlight this evening will be on Penn National Race Course, which hosts a solid, 10-race card with a bevy of stakes worth over $1 million total.
In fact, a trio of stakes races early on the card – the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup on the turf, the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap on the main track and the inaugural $500,000 Penn Mile on the grass – are worth a grand sum of $900,000 among them. Both the Governor’s Cup and the Mountainview have numerous proven commodities, while the Penn Mile is looking to carve out a niche as a big early race for three-year-olds on the turf.
Those heading to Grantville, Pennsylvania this evening for the live card will certainly want to get there early because the PA Governor’s Cup not only concludes the early daily double, but it also kicks off the lucrative all-stakes pick-3. It also may prove to be the most competitive, contentious race on the card and a genuine early prep for older horses with Breeders Cup Turf Sprint aspirations. In fact, one of them has already won it.
Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”10″ position =”right” order =”none” box_spacing =”5″ padding =”5″ background_color =”white” border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_style =”solid” height =”160″ ]Black’s Picks
- Chamberlain Bridge
- Ben’s Cat
Running time: 55 4/5 seconds[/boxify]
Among the 11 runners slated to go postward in the PA Governor’s Cup at five furlongs on the turf are two horses who may have serious Breeders Cup Turf Sprint plans — Bridgetown and Chamberlain Bridge — and one, Ben’s Cat, who should. Chamberlain Bridge (Miguel Mena), who won this race in 2010 in 55.05, just missing the track record, would later capture the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs that same year. He was unsuccessful in his title defense a year later while finishing eighth. Although winless in three starts this year, Chamberlain Bridge brings a world of back class into this race with 17 wins and earnings of $1.9 million from 45 tries on grass.
Bridgetown (3-1 morning line, John Velazquez), the beaten favorite in his seasonal debut at Pimlico on Black-Eyed Susan day, has multiple graded stakes victories to his credit and earnings rapidly approaching $1 million from 21 career outings. He also got the better of Chamberlain Bridge (5-1), the last time the two horses met when they were first and third, respectively, in the Grade III Woodford Reserve at Keeneland last fall.
Looking to upend them both despite drawing the outside 11 slot is Ben’s Cat (5-2), who rallied to overhaul Bridgetown in the Turf Sprint at Pimlico. Owned, bred, and trained by longtime Maryland legend, King T. Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat has won three straight races and 21 of 31 overall, and he captured this event two years ago. He has won 13 of 19 starts on the grass, 11 of 15 at the five-furlong distance.
But the big three may not have a stranglehold on the top three finishes when all is said and done. Tightend Touchdown (6-1) has displayed wicked speed on the lawn in three starts since being claimed by Jason Servis, and Kyma (8-1), the defending champion of this event, has won three of four tries at the distance on the grass. He will likely be a shorter price than last year when he posted a 34-1 shocker.
In fact, the pace scenarios all seem to suggest that Chamberlain Bridge and Kyma could be in the garden spot early. Tightend Touchdown will likely set the early pace and Bridgetown will go with him. Expect Bridgetown to assume command leaving the quarter pole, and then Chamberlain Bridge and Kyma will get first jump at him with Ben’s Cat launching his bid from well off the pace.
My guess is Chamberlain Bridge benefits the most from this scenario and holds off the late bid of Ben’s Cat to score by a neck in around 55 4/5 seconds for the five panels. Kyma will edge Bridgetown for the show spot.
Mountainview Handicap[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”10″ position =”right” order =”none” box_spacing =”5″ padding =”5″ background_color =”white” border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_style =”solid” height =”160″ ]Black’s Picks
- Rattlesnake Bridge
- Norman Asbjornson
- Great Investment
Running time: 1:50 2/5[/boxify]
One race later on the card in the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap for older horses traveling nine furlongs, Rattlesnake Bridge (5-2, John Velazquez) looms as the solid favorite for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He exits the Grade III Westchester at Belmont where Flat Out and Cross Traffic finished one-two. Cross Traffic came back to run a game, gritty second in the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont on Memorial Day.
But a trio of runners also could be poised for an upset. Pants On Fire (4-1) brings a ton of back class for trainer Kelly Breen, having competed in the Kentucky Derby and Haskell at three. Norman Asbjornson (8-1), who also exits the Westchester where he was a nondescript fifth after capturing the Harrison Johnson Handicap at Laurel, could loom a late danger, while Great Investment (15-1) has won five of 10 starts over the Penn National main track and appears to be improving with each start.
My guess here, however, is that Rattlesnake Bridge prevails as the short-priced favorite by covering the nine furlongs in a solid 1:50 2/5, roughly a second above the 1:49 track standard. But I do expect Norman Asbjornson and Great Investment to round out the triple at decent prices.
Penn Mile[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”10″ position =”right” order =”none” box_spacing =”5″ padding =”5″ background_color =”white” border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_style =”solid” height =”160″ ]Black’s Picks
- Noble Tune
- Jack Milton
- Charming Kitten
Running time: 1:35 2/5[/boxify]
The feature race on the card, the inaugural running of the $500,000 Penn Mile appears to be a clearcut case of the haves versus the have-nots. Noble Tune, Jack Milton, Rydilluc and Charming Kitten are all proven stakes horses on the grass and three of them could be future stars. Are You Kidding Me could be a live longshot, while Pitch N Roll, Yougotthatgoingforyou and Triple Cross appear outclassed in this spot.
Of the top four, Noble Tune, 2-1 in the morning line, looms as the solid favorite and may go off as low as 6-5. He recently won the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs and he ended his freshman campaign by running second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf after taking the Grade III Pilgrim at Aqueduct.
Rydilluc (5-2) won three straight races on the grass before finishing fourth in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last out, while Todd Pletcher trainees Jack Milton (3-1) and Charming Kitten (4-1) have both won stakes on the grass. Jack Milton won the Grade III Transylvania last out at Keeneland, while Charming Kitten exits the Kentucky Derby where he finished ninth on a sloppy main Churchill Downs strip.
While Noble Tune looms as the favorite for the Penn Mile, the play appears to be Rydilluc, who looks like the controlling speed and will prove tough to overhaul at the mile distance. Noble Tune will rally late to edge Jack Milton for second, with Charming Kitten fourth and Are You Kidding Me fifth, with the winner getting the distance in about 1:35 2/5.
Looking back, there are several decent pick-3 plays leading with using Chamberlain Bridge and Ben’s Cat in the Governor’s Cup, singling Rattlesnake Bridge in the Mountainview and then using Rydilluc and Noble Tune in the Penn Mile. A lot of action and stakes horses to root for on a $2 ticket.