Photo: Eclipse Spotswire - Bob Mayberger
When the excellent four-year-old New York-bred filly, Hessonite last visited suburban Philadelphia, she came running late to just miss by a half-length. It was confirmation that the daughter of Freud was becoming a serious turf horse. Now a five-year-old mare, Hessonite is a proven commodity. With five stakes wins in seven starts under her girth since her last trip to Parx, she returns to the $250,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap as the horse to beat in a deep and talented edition of the grade 3 turf test.
Along with her 9 wins in 17 turf tries, Hessonite has become a mare that can win from anywhere. If the pace is slow, she can stay close before pouncing, while a fast early pace can lead to a strong late rush. Despite the fact that she uncharacteristically did not fire at all on the soft turf of the 1 3/8 mile Sheepshead Bay, Hessonite is known for her consistent excellent form. In fact, giving a pass for the dull race in a race likely a little too wet and long last time, Hessonite may be coming into the Penny better than ever for trainer David Donk, considering her impressive victory in the Grade 3 Beaugay in the start before. Not so coincidentally, the Penny is the same 1 1/16 distance as the Beaugay and several other of her stakes victories. Johnny V will ship in with her from New York for the ride.
Among her main competition in the Penny, include a pair of fillies coming off their first lifetime graded stakes victories in smashing style. While each does it in a completely different way, Pianist and Miz Ida are coming in on career form and both are big threats to ruin Hessonite’s return to Parx.
Long supported by the bettors, but yet to break through against quality competition, Pianist not only knocked on the Gallorette door, she kicked it in. Sent off at easily the highest odds of her career, the Chad Brown trained speedster went right to the front on Preakness Day, and from there, only lengthened her margin down the lane to score by 2 ¾ lengths. Look for her odds to drift back down to a more familiar number than the 6.7-1 she was let go at Pimlico. The grade 3 score came while under the hands of Mike Smith for the first time, and Pianist will reunite with the Hall of Fame rider again today.
Much like Hessonite, Miz Ida is a winner. Victorious of 7-of-11 on the grass, the daughter of Proud Citizen ships in from Kentucky off a stylish win in the Mint Julep Handicap. Trained by Steve Margolis, Miz Ida scored her biggest victory to date with an impressive rallying win over the multiple graded stakes winner, Daisy Devine, at Churchill Downs. The confirmed stretch runner makes her third start of 2013 and again will be ridden by Shaun Bridgemohan.
The Penny field will be more than just rounded out by Laughing, Peace Preserver, Somali Lemonade, Naple’s Bay, and Diner’s Out. Each of the five brings strong credentials to Parx, and it would be no surprise to see any horse in the field come out a winner today.