Three of the most accomplished 3-year-old turf horses in the country – Jack Milton, Noble Tune, and Rydilluc – will meet for the first time in the inaugural running of the $500,000 Penn Mile, set for Saturday, June 1 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
The Penn Mile is scheduled as the fourth race, with an approximate 7:26 p.m. EST post, and is the final leg of an All Stakes Early Pick 4 that also features the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap and the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup. Noble Tune, for trainer Chad Brown, has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Penn Mile with Javier Castellano aboard from the rail.
Coming off an impressive 1 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 3, the day before the Kentucky Derby, Noble Tune has only lost once in five lifetime starts, a second place finish in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
“He is training very well and I am extremely happy with how he is coming into the race,” said Brown. “Going into the American Turf, he was training better than I had ever seen him and I expected a big effort. I am looking forward to Saturday and it should be a great race.”
The 5-2 second choice in the Penn Mile is Rydilluc, undefeated in three turf starts for trainer Gary Contessa. Among those wins is the Grade 3 Palm Beach on March 3 at Gulfstream Park, which he won by an easy 3 ½ lengths. Assigned post position 7 with Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Rydilluc comes into the Penn Mile off a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on the Polytrack surface.
“He certainly is right up there with the best horses that I have ever had,” said Contessa, four-time leading NYRA trainer. “He is the best moving horse that I have ever trained and he takes your breath away when he goes past you. Had he run one place better in the Blue Grass, we would have run him in the Derby. Edgar Prado has never really asked him for his best on the turf yet, and I am looking forward to seeing how he fares against the best turf horses in the country.”
Todd Pletcher, who has won five Eclipse Awards as Leading Trainer, will send out two horses in the Penn Mile.
Leaving from post position 6 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard will be Jack Milton (3-1), most recently seen winning the Grade 3 Transylvania on April 5 at Keeneland by a neck. After taking his debut at Gulfstream Park on January 12 in powerful fashion, he ran second in a subsequent allowance at Gulfstream, but that did not dissuade Pletcher from going into the Transylvania on just two career starts.
“We were very high on him before his first race and even more so afterwards,” Pletcher said. “In his second race we were a little disappointed, but we felt his loss was because he didn’t handle the surface that day. We were very impressed by his victory in the Transylvania and originally thought about the American Turf, but he acted like he needed some time. We know he likes running fresh so we focused on the Penn Mile. He is training great coming into the race.”
Pletcher’s second entrant for the Penn Mile is Charming Kitten, who comes off a ninth place finish in the Kentucky Derby, which marked his dirt debut. He is a stakes winner on the turf, taking the Kitten’s Joy Stakes, named for his sire, on January 20 at Gulfstream Park. After that effort he ran second to Rydilluc in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream and then finished ahead of that rival by one spot in the Blue Grass at Keeneland.
“We have always felt like Charming Kitten’s favored surface was the turf,” said Pletcher. “He is versatile and handles multiple surfaces. We took a shot in the Derby and we thought he ran a big race there for his first dirt effort; he showed some guts and determination. Now it’s back to his preferred surface.”
Charming Kitten (4-1) will leave from post position 8 with jockey Joel Rosario, who piloted this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
Rounding out the first ever Penn Mile field are Grade 2 placed Are You Kidding Me (12-1) for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, stakes winner Pitch N Roll (20-1) for trainer Ron Potts, Triple Cross (20-1) for trainer Adam Rice, and Yougotthatgoinforu (50-1) for trainer Michael Rogers.