The equine stars — Favorite Tale, Kid Cruz, Page McKenney, Ben’s Cat — came to Penn National last night for the track’s biggest card of the fall and winter.
But it was the equine star that was born who stole the show.
Two-year-old Behrnik’s Bank, making just the second start of her racing career, decimated a field of six rivals in the $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies, for Pennsylvania-breds, and served notice that she can be the next Penn National-based filly to make a big splash.
The last? Multiple Grade 1 winner Princess of Sylmar, who broke her maiden by 19 lengths at the Grantville oval late in her two-year-old season, in 2012.
As it happens, Behrnik’s Bank’s debut was approximately as enticing. She won at first asking, against state-bred maiden fillies, by 18 1/2 lengths on November 4 — just four days less than three years to the day after Princess of Sylmar’s maiden breaker.
Behrnik’s Bank, a daughter of Bank Heist who was bred by Kaz Hill Farm, was 14-1 the day she broke her maiden; but the days of getting big odds on her appear to be done. Yesterday, she was 1-5 when the fillies left the gate.
When the gates opened, Behrnik’s Bank and rider Edwin Gonzalez bounded directly to the front and opened a couple-length lead after a quarter mile in 22.36 seconds. She zipped the second quarter in 22.59 seconds, stretching her lead to a yawning 10 lengths. From there, she coasted home in hand with a 13-length triumph, stopping the clock in 1:10.22.
In two races, she has thrashed her opponents by a combined, Secretariat-esque total of 31 1/2 lengths.
How fast was her final time?
One indicator: the two-year-old maiden fillies who ran one race prior took 1:13.31 — three full seconds slower — to navigate the same distance.
A better indicator: four-year-old Favorite Tale — recently third, beaten less than two lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint — won the $200,000 Fabulous Strike two races later by two lengths. His time: 1:11.00.
Behrnik’s Bank is trained by Dimitrios Synnefias for owner Peter Kazamias. Its a Journey ran second in the Blue Mountain, and Hey Monba was third.
PENN NATIONAL STAKES RESULTS
In addition to the Blue Mountain, Penn National hosted two other stakes Wednesday evening: the $100,000 Swatara at 1 1/16 miles and the $200,000, six furlong Fabulous Strike, both for older horses.
Favorite Tale, fresh off a placing in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, made short work of the Fabulous Strike, grabbing the early lead and never looking back en route to a two-length win. A pair of longshots — 87-1 Majestic Hussar and Galiana, a mare who went off at 56-1 — rounded out the trifecta.
Favorite Tale, the 1-2 post time favorite, was ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Guadalupe Preciado. He was bred in Pennsylvania by Paul Conaway and is owned by his PJG Stables. He’s now won eight of 18 career starts, with earnings over $890,000.
Ben’s Cat, the three-time defending champ who went off as the 5.30-1 third choice, stalked the pace for a half-mile before fading and was wrapped up late by rider Julian Pimentel. He finished seventh of eight…
Page McKenney made it a clean sweep for Pennsylvania-breds of the evening’s stakes, taking the Swatara as the 3-2 post time favorite. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos made the trip to Grantville to ride for trainer Mary Eppler.
Longshot Kobel assumed the lead after a quarter-mile, tugging the field through three-quarters of a mile in a solid 1:11.64. By then Page McKenney, from fifth, and Kid Cruz, in last, were revving up.
Those two made spirited runs, Page McKenney looping up on the outside of the leaders, while Kid Cruz shot a gap along the rail, with Page McKenney ultimately prevailing by a half-length. It was two lengths farther back to Catron in third, and Kobel held fourth.
Page McKenney, bred by Dr. James Bryant and Linda Davis and owned by their Jalin Stable in partnership with Adam Staple, has now won 14 of 41 career starts and earned $976,978. He has now finished in the money 21 consecutive times…
Total handle for the 10-race program was $2.036,678. That was a 56-percent increase over last year’s Fabulous Strike card handle of $1.3 million. The 2014 card was moved to the Saturday after Thanksgiving following a weather-related cancellation…