From a Penn National Gaming Inc. release
After Kid Cruz found his form with two easy stakes victories in Maryland in the spring of his 3-year-old year, trainer Linda Rice didn’t hesitate to match the son of Lemon Drop Kid against some of the best horses in the country.
The New York-based trainer raced Kid Cruz in the Preakness Stakes, and then he won the Grade 3 Dwyer, came in third behind Wicked Strong and Tonalist in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Travers. A heady schedule, to say the least.
After two warm-up races after a six-month break, Rice now wants to find out what kind of runner Kid Cruz is going to be this year – one of the best or one of the rest.
The quest begins in earnest Saturday against 10 other runners in the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race for 3-year-olds and up at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
The Mountainview is part of a special All-Stakes Pick Four that begins with the first race on the card, the $150,000 Penn Oaks, followed by the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, the Mountain View, and finishing with the Penn Mile.
Post time for the Penn Oaks is 6 p.m., with the Penn Mile scheduled for 7:22 p.m. The four stakes races will be televised live by HRTV, which will begin broadcasting at 5:30 EDT.
“This next race will be a real tell for us: Are we going to the more prestigious races and develop stallion value for him, or spotting him around the country?” Rice said. “There are a lot of big events later in the summer – like the Whitney – that we have in the distant future. The last race [a second-place finish April 1 in an optional-claiming race at Aqueduct] was a step in the right direction, and we need to continue that forward momentum to get to those goals. Hopefully, this will be a big steppingstone, this race at Penn National.”
It won’t be easy as Kid Cruz faces six other stakes winners, four of them who have triumphed in graded company.
Albano, who drew the outside post for trainer Larry Jones, won the Grade 3 Pegasus last year by 6 ½ lengths at Monmouth Park, using that race as a launching pad to a second-place finish in the prestigious Grade 1 Haskell Invitational behind eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern.
In his most recent start, Albano was beaten just a half-length when second in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 28 at the Fair Grounds.
East Hall, who won the Ohio Derby and Grade 2 Indiana Derby last year for trainer Bill Kaplan, enters off a series of races against top-class runners this past winter in Florida.
The 4-year-old gelding finished second by a neck in the Sunshine Millions Classic in January at Gulfstream Park and then finished fifth in both the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. In his most recent start, the Grade 3 Skip Away, he was fourth behind Commissioner, who came back May 16 to take the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on Preakness Day.
“He’s a nice horse; he didn’t tail off,” Kaplan said. “Look where he was running: He ran in the Donn Handicap and the Gulfstream Park Handicap and got beaten single digits [lengths] in both races. The last race, I wasn’t happy with so we have him a little time. He’s an iron horse and finishes well wherever he runs. If he can run back to his Indiana Derby, we can do something here.”
When on his game, the 5-year-old Golden Lad has been one of the toughest horses in the south the past two years, putting together four straight wins that culminated in a victory in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap in March 2014 at Oaklawn Park, and scoring this past winter over 2014 Preakness runner-up Ride on Curlin in the Essex Handicap.
In his most recent start, Golden Lad was just beaten out for the show spot in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.
While his 3-year-old turf horse Papacoolpapacool is one of the favorites in the Penn Mile, Santa Anita-based trainer Phillip D’Amato warned that his Nowalking should not be ignored in the Mountainview.
Although he didn’t break his maiden until his eighth start, the 4-year-old son of Hard Spun came right back to win an allowance race on May 2.
“He’s an improving horse,” D’Amato said. “His last two races he had numbers that would put him in the mix for stakes races. His confidence level is sky high right now. I want to see how he stacks up with horses over there [on the East Coast]. We’re taking a shot with him.”
Street Babe, winner of the Grade 3 Mineshaft in February at the Fair Grounds; multiple stakes winner Faarhan; multiple stakes winner Edge of Reality; stakes-placed Cousin Stephen; and allowance winners Very Lucky and Golden Glint complete the field.