Eight runners have been assembled to take part in the $500,000 Penn Mile (G2) on Saturday at Penn National, the highlight of an 11-race card that also includes six other stakes contests.
The Todd Pletcher-trained MARAUD has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite off a 1 1/2-length victory in the American Turf Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. The Blame sophomore overcame 13 rivals and a very yielding turf course on that occasion, but has proven himself just as capable over firm going, as evidenced by his neck score in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on March 3.
“We were concerned about (the turf condition) in the American Turf when it kept raining and raining the entire day,” Pletcher said. “He didn’t handle the soft ground at Keeneland, but he handled it OK at Churchill, which was a bog that day.”
Maraud has finished off-the-board only once in his seven-race career, with that coming as a fifth-placing in the Transylvania Stakes (G3) over Keeneland’s yielding course on April 6. He keeps jockey John Velazquez in the irons here.
“Hopefully, he fires his ‘A’ race,” Pletcher added.
The trainer also sends out COLTANDMISSISSIPPI in the Penn Mile off just one turf race. The bay colt broke his maiden at first asking last August at Saratoga and took an allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream Park West by six lengths in October before placing third in the Jerome Stakes two starts later to begin his sophomore campaign.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile was fourth in the Withers Stakes (G3) next out before being switched from the main track to the turf at Aqueduct for the Bridgetown Stakes most recently on April 14. Coltandmississippi ran third in that six-furlong affair, beaten only a half-length for it all and a nose for second.
“We thought he ran a decent six furlongs on the turf, so we thought to try going farther,” Pletcher said. “It’s ambitious, but we thought we’d give him a try.”
Joel Rosario has the call on Coltandmississippi in the Penn Mile.
THERAPIST brings a 5-4-0-1 career mark into the race for trainer Christophe Clement. The Freud colt’s only loss came as a third in the Pam Beach behind Maraud, but he sandwiched that between wins in Belmont Park’s Awad Stakes, which closed out his juvenile season, and the Cutler Bat Stakes last out at Gulfstream Park on March 31. Irad Ortiz Jr. stays in the saddle for this one.
“He’s not the strongest horse mentally, but he’s doing well,” Clement said. “We had two choices – the Penn Mile or the other race (Pennine Ridge [G3]) at Belmont going a mile and an eighth. We chose the Penn Mile. We know the horse well and he’s been a pleasant surprise.”
ENCUMBERED makes his sophomore debut in the Penn Mile after finishing out 2017 with a 13th-place run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). It was the Simon Callaghan trainee’s first loss on turf, as he broke his maiden on the green in his second outing and took the Del Mar Juvenile Turf under returning regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
“He came back a little bit sore out of the (Breeders’ Cup),” Callaghan said. “We did a minor knee surgery after the race and gave him the time off, and he’s come back really strong. He’s fit and ready to run.
“He showed at Del Mar he’s a very good turf horse. We think a mile is right for Encumbered. We think he’s going to have a really big year. He’s been showing us a lot in the morning. We might be a (6-1 morning-line) shot, but we feel he’s live.”
HE’S BANKABLE and HAWKISH have also only lost once on turf in their careers. The former is trained by Mark Casse and has gone 4-3-0-0 since transferring to grass in December. The Arch gelding is a two-time stakes winner in Florida, including the English Channel Stakes last out on May 5, and gets Tyler Gaffalione holding the reins Saturday. Hawkish will be ridden by Manny Franco for trainer Jimmy Toner. The Artie Schiller colt is 3-2-0-0 in his career, sandwiching a fourth-placing in the Palm Beach Stakes between maiden and allowance/optional claiming scores.
“(He’s Bankable) didn’t show a whole lot of anything early on, but he’s come to life as of late,” Casse said. “We breezed him on turf and thought he got over it very well.”
Rounding out the Penn Mile field are WAY EARLY, who gets first-time Lasix in this spot, and SMART REMARK, who ran third in the Columbia Stakes in one of only two tries on the grass thus far.
A special 3:45 p.m. first-post time will kick off the stakes-laden card Saturday at Penn National. The undercard stakes is headed by the $200,000 Penn Oaks, the sister race to the Penn Mile.
The eight-furlong turf test drew a field of seven sophomore fillies, including coupled entrants CLASSY DANCER and THEWAYIAM. Stakes winner Classy Dancer is a step behind her entry-mate, the French-bred Thewayiam who won the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3) and Sweetest Chant Stakes (G3) earlier this year.
One race after the Penn Oaks, a dozen older runners, including one main-track only, have been entered to go five furlongs on the turf in the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup.
Multiple Grade 3 hero PURE SENSATION makes just his second start of the year in this spot for Clement with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. The seven-year-old Zensational gelding’s last start of 2017 resulted in a fifth-placing, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar in November. He returned April 13 at Gulfstream Park to run second in an allowance/optional claimer.
Another dozen runners including a main-track only entrant, will go 1 1/16 miles on Penn National’s green in the $100,000 Lyphard Stakes. GREAT SOUL is the 9-5 morning-line choice amongst the distaffers thanks to a pair of stakes wins. The Tom Proctor-trained mare shows one start this season, capturing an allowance/optional claimer on May 10 at Belmont Park.
A couple races later, MORTICIA tops a field of 12 fillies and mares as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash. The bay four-year-old’s last win came in her 2017 finale, the Franklin County Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, and so far she’s placed in her three stakes efforts this year.
The $100,000 New Start Stakes, one of two Pennsylvania-bred restricted stakes on Saturday’s card, begins the stakes action. The six-furlong contest takes place on the main track and drew a field of eight sophomore fillies. Two races later, the $100,000 Danzig Stakes will send a dozen Pennsylvania-bred three-year olds six furlongs on the dirt.