In perusing the national stakes landscape for 2013, I found a brand new race hosted by a rather unlikely suspect to be one of the most intriguing additions of the year. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course offers up a whopping $500,000 in hopes of attracting some of the top young turf horses in the nation to the 40-year-old racetrack just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The inaugural running of the Penn Mile will be contested for 3-year-olds going a flat mile on the turf on Saturday, June 1. The hefty half million dollar purse represents the largest ever offered at Penn National and will be the headliner of a big day of racing in Central Pennsylvania.
I ran into the new director of racing operations, Dan Silver, on my recent trip to Gulfstream Park and he informed me that he was there to spread the word of the exciting new race.
“We are extremely excited to offer an opportunity for some of the best 3-year-olds to showcase their ability on our turf course in the inaugural Penn Mile,” said Silver. “It is a good spot on the calendar to offer a premier turf mile race for 3-year-olds, and along with the Mountainview Handicap and Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup it will create a highly anticipated day of racing.”
As a big fan of turf racing, I happen to agree with Silver, in that there are not a lot of strong options for our top young turf horses this early in the season. A rich new offering like this will give connections a great turf option and help bridge the gap to other big grass races of the summer like the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park and the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. Also, if you are considering a visit to Penn National, as I am, an exciting card like this makes it all the easier to pull the trigger.
Besides the Penn Mile, the June 1 card at Penn National will also feature the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap. For 3-year-olds & up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the Mountainview attracted a solid field in 2012, in its first-ever running, with Grade 1 winner Toby’s Corner, from the Graham Motion barn, taking home first place money. The other big race of the day will be the traditional Penn National feature, the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup for 3-year-olds & up going five furlongs on the turf. With 40 years of exciting history under its belt, last year’s edition saw gigantic payoffs as 34-1 longshot, Kyma helped light up the toteboard, while the 6-5 defending champ, and one of the nation's best turf sprinters, Ben’s Cat faded to fourth. Breeders' Cup champion, Chamberlain Bridge took the race back in 2010.
I’ve never been to Penn National, neither the old version, nor the new one, which as of 2008 now includes the casino, and a host of excellent dining options, but I just might have to make 2013 the year that I make it out for the first time. For me, it is really this simple … offer an excellent card, with great turf racing, like that which will be seen on June 1 at Penn National, and I will come.