by John Scheinman, from a Penn National release
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$200,000 MOUNTAINVIEW HANDICAP
May 31, 2014
Race 3 – Post time 7:01pm EST
3&up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
- Valid, Orlando Bocachica, 116, Marcus J. Vitali
- Arlo, Frankie Pennington, 112, Cynthia G. Reese
Ruler On Ice, Angel Serpa, 116, Kelly J. Breen
- Last Gunfighter, Javier Castellano, 121, Chad C. Brown
Taptowne, Stewart Elliott, 117, Tim Glyshaw
- Sailor’s Revenge, Jose Luis Flores, 113, Ramon Preciado
Golden Ticket, Robby J. Albarado, 119, Kenneth G. McPeek
- Percussion, Christopher P. DeCarlo, 116, Todd A. Pletcher[/boxify]
One of the steadiest, hardest-traveling stakes horses in the country last year, John Gunther’s Last Gunfighter seeks to pick up where he left off this Saturday night when he faces a rugged field of seven in the third running of the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
The Mountainview is the third race on the Saturday night card, with a post time scheduled for 7:01 p.m. EST. It will be the third leg in an All Stakes Pick 4 that climaxes with the second running of the $500,000 Penn Mile, which is rapidly becoming one of the most prestigious turf races for 3-year-olds in the country.
Trained by Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Last Gunfighter last year won the ungraded Evening Attire at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Pimlico Special in Baltimore, the Grade 3 Phillip Iselin at Monmouth and closed out the year with a win in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap.
He also finished second to Flat Out in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, fifth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and was beaten just 4 ¾ lengths when fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Mucho Macho Man.
In all, Last Gunfighter raced at six different tracks, and he opens his 2014 campaign Saturday as the 5-2 favorite to win the 1 1/8-mile Mountainview as the highweight carrying 121 pounds, including 2013 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano.
“This horse made nearly a million dollars last year alone,” Brown said. “He travels well and has run well at several different racetracks. We got a little later start this year. He didn’t have any issues; we just wanted to give him a little extra time.”
Last Gunfighter enters the Mountainview off two five-furlong works at Belmont Park and his past performances show three victories off of layoffs. He will need to be ready to fire, however, as his primary opponents are sharp and well into their campaigns.
Golden Ticket, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, is coming off a heartbreaking defeat in the Grade 2 Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs. With a lead deep in the stretch, Golden Ticket fell victim to the rail-skimming magic of Calvin Borel, who grittily scored a half-length victory aboard Moonshine Mullin.
In two other starts this year, Golden Ticket finished second by head to Palace Malice in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and then finished fourth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint.
Two years ago, Golden Ticket scored a dead-heat victory with Alpha in the prestigious Grade 1 Travers, and he’s been running with the best in the country since then. Last year, he finished second to Goldencents in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, rallying from 15 lengths back on a Santa Anita dirt course that heavily favored front-runners that day.
“He’s an easy horse to handle,” said Golden Ticket’s trainer Ken McPeek. “He’s never met a veterinarian, hardly. He’s had a couple tough beats, but at least he’s got the Travers. I’ve been second in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Oaks, second in the Apple Blossom. It happens.”
Taptowne, 7-2 on the morning line, like Golden Ticket, is another runner with a series of tough second-place finishes. One came in his most recent start, the Grade 3 Texas Mile when, with Borel aboard, he uncharacteristically went three-to-four wide on the turns, while Grand Contender stayed on the inside, ultimately beating him by a half-length.
Last September, Taptowne turned in a monstrous performance, running up a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs, only to finish second to Pants On Fire, who ran the race of his life.
Taptowne, however, scratched out of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year and instead won the $150,000 Swatara Stakes at Penn National by 5 ¼ lengths.
Stewart Elliott, in the midst of a sensational year, picks up the mount.
“He has a ton of speed, but he also is fairly ratable, unless they go terribly slow like last November when he won at Penn,” trainer Tim Glyshaw said.
“Truth be known, he could have more $750,000 last year instead of [$466,916]. He ran into some horses that ran the best races of their lives. I was an assistant for a long time to [the late] Bob Holthus, and he said, “There’s a real little distance in a lot of horses between first and third.’ And it’s true. Overall, he’s been really, really nice for us.”
Monmouth-based Marcus Vitali comes in with a live 10-1 shot in Valid, who rocketed to a sensational seven-furlong optional-claiming win April 4 at Gulfstream Park, winning by 6 ¼ lengths in a time of 1:21 2/5.
Vitali stepped the 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding into the deep waters of the Grade 3 Pimlico Special and he ran well on the lead until tiring to fifth behind winner Revolutionary.
Vitali toyed with the idea of running in the Grade 1 $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes card next Saturday but opted for the Mountainview.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out 4-1 shot Percussion, freshened after a third-place finish behind Romansh in the Excelsior at Aqueduct. The 6-year-old Bluegrass Cat gelding scored his biggest win last year in the Albert the Great Stakes at the Mountainview distance at Belmont Park.
“Our horse is consistent; he always shows up and runs well,” Pletcher said.
Ruler On Ice, 10-1, continues to seek to recapture the form that made him one of the top 3-year-olds in the country in 2011. That year, he won the Belmont Stakes and also finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Last year, he won an allowance at Aqueduct and finished second in a stakes race at Monmouth Park for trainer Kelly Breen.
Sailor’s Revenge, 20-1, a sharp eight-length winner in an allowance for Pennsylvania breds at a mile in his most recent start at Parx Racing, and Parx-based Arlo, 12-1, a winner of nearly $550,000, complete the field.
(Featured image, of Rydilluc winning last year’s Penn Mile, by B & D Photography.)