Penn National set to kick off 2024 season with changes

Penn National issued the following press release January 9:

Penn National Race Course’s 2023 racing season came to a close on Friday, December 29, with Timothy C. Kreiser earning the leading trainer title for the tenth straight year, with 57 wins from 245 starters and $1,032,276 in earnings. However, the 2023 title race was the closest margin of victory for Kreiser, as Brandon Kulp finished second with 56 wins from 245 starts and lead the division by earnings with $1,094,276.

Alberto Santiago’s Grand Wiser won the title for the leading horse with 7 wins from 13 starts at Penn National, earning $110,084. Grand Wiser is by the sire Flat Out and out of the mare Champagne Girl (Into Mischief). The five-year-old gelding was bred in KY by Spendthrift Farm, LLC. Grand Wiser was trained during his 2023 campaign by Jorge J. Maymo, whose horses captured nine wins from 43 starts and $149,645 in earnings.

The leading jockey race saw Angel R. Rodriguez win his fourth title with 142 winners from 579 mounts and $2.4 million in earnings. Rodriguez’s previous wins came in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Peter Kazamias teamed up with father and son trainers Dimitrios K. and Panagiotis A. Synnefias to lead all owners by wins with 29 from 105 starts and earnings of $446,937.

The tenth running of the Grade 2 $400,000 Penn Mile was won by Major Dude in 2023 for owner Spendthrift Farm LLC and trained by Hall of Famer, Todd Pletcher. Major Dude was ridden by nationally leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr., who is favored to win the prestigious thoroughbred industry Eclipse Award for Leading Jockey of 2023. Penn Mile Day held on June 2, set a new single day handle (money wagered) record Penn National of just over $4,500,000, surpassing the previous record of $4,000,000 set in 2022.

The live racing schedule for 2024 will see a reduction in the total number of race days, down from 135 in 2023 to 115 in 2024. The 115 days of racing will be broken up into three periods of live racing with the first set to be beginning, January 10, through March 22, (33 days). After a brief five-week closure, the second period of live racing will begin Thursday, May 2. through August 30, (54 days). The final period of live racing will begin on October 23 and run through December 27, (28 days).

Live racing will be conducted throughout each period every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evening with a first race post of 6:00 pm.

Major Dude Penn Mile
Major Dude inched past Behind Enemy Lines to win the Penn Mile. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Special events for 2024 will include:

·       Live Racing on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 4. First Post 2:00 pm.

·       Penn Mile Day, Friday, May 31. First Post 5:00 pm.

·       Ostrich and Camel Racing in early July

·       Fan Appreciation Day in mid-August

·       Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Out Race, Friday, October 25

·       Veterans’ Appreciation Day, Friday, November 8

By reducing the number of live race days Penn National will create two gaps in the racing schedule with the first from March 23 through May 1, and the second from August 31, through October 22. By creating these gaps, we will give our horsemen an opportunity to rest their horses and in turn create a safer racing environment.

Additionally, the reduction in race days will enable Penn Nation to increase purses, making for a more competitive racing product. When live racing kicks off for the 2024 season on Wednesday, January 10, horsemen will see purses increased by an average of 25%. Maiden Allowance caliber horses will see an increase from $27,100 in 2023 to a purse of $34,000 in 2024. Additionally, Pennsylvania-bred horses will see an even greater increase in the Maiden Allowance purse from $31,600 in 2023 to $40,000 in 2024.