Ny Traffic headlines Penn National MATCH stakes

The most intriguing name in Friday’s $100,000 Chocolate Town Stakes at Penn National is that of Ny Traffic.

The Chocolate Town is one of a pair of sprint stakes on the card that are part of the MATCH Series. The Susquehanna Valley, for fillies and mares, goes as race five, and the Chocolate Town, for three-year-olds and up, is the sixth. Both will be contested at six furlongs.

Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., Ny Traffic emerged on the scene in 2020 when he placed in the Grade 3 Risen Star and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby to earn a spot in that year’s delayed Kentucky Derby. He finished eighth in the Derby and then ninth in the Preakness in which Swiss Skydiver outdueled Derby winner Authentic.

But it wasn’t until this past October, when shortened up to sprints, that Ny Traffic earned his first stakes victory, in the Hudson Handicap for New York-breds. He added another stakes win last out in the Affirmed Success and has won his last three one-turn starts.

Ny Traffic’s ability to stalk and pounce – that’s how he won the Hudson – should serve him in good stead in a race that appears to have plenty of speed.

Possibly the speed of the speed – and the speed horse with the most demonstrated quality – is the Pennsylvania-bred Beren (4-1). He’s run too well to lose in each of his last two, yet lost both, leading a long way before settling for second in each. The cutback to six furlongs – a distance at which he’s four-for-six – may aid the cause, and if he gets loose, this multiple stakes winner may not come back to them.

Threes Over Deuces (8-1) ran a big one at long odds to be second in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint on the Preakness undercard last month, his second straight top-quality effort. Five of this late-running sort’s seven career victories are at this six-furlong trip, including a stakes win in the Dave’s Friend at Laurel last December.

Local win machine Pictor has (10-1) won 13 of 20 six-furlong starts in his career, and last time out showed a newfound ability to run from off the pace. If he shows his customary speed, though, he should be involved from the jump as he gets a class test in this spot.

PICKS: 11-2-6-10

One race prior, a compact but interesting group of seven fillies and mares will line up in the Susquehanna Valley.

Fille d’Esprit (7-2) has hooked a couple of tigers in her last two, finishing second to Joy’s Rocket in the Skipat and to Pennybaker in the Heavenly Cause. Her two starts prior to those – a third in the Grade 3 Fritchie and a decisive win in the Conniver – were terrific. If she can get back to that form, she’ll have a big impact on this race.

The horse she – and all of the rest, most likely – will be chasing is the speedy Hey Mamaluke (3-1). She’s thrown in the towel in her last couple, and that is a cause for concern. But she looks to be controlling speed in this spot, and if she gets loose, she may prove tough to reel in.

Morning line favorite Kaylasaurus (5-2) hasn’t run since prevailing in the Primonetta at Laurel Park April 23. But she’ll enter this contest in top form and has been firing bullets in the morning in preparation. She’d be no surprise at all over her home track. Jockey Horacio Karamanos, aboard in her last two starts, makes the trek up to Grantville for the mount.

Prodigy Doll (6-1) looks to be an inch below the top runners in here but has run plenty of good races herself.

PICKS: 5-4-6-1