Klaravich Stables, Inc.'s undefeated Digital Age, upset winner of the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, headlines an overflowing list of 47 top 3-year-old turf runners nominated to the Grade 2, $500,000 Penn Mile, the marquee race of the year at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa.
Trained by Chad Brown, three-time winner of the Eclipse Award for leading trainer in the country, the Irish-bred Digital Age employed what is becoming his trademark late charge down the lane to overhaul pace-making graded stakes winner A Thread of Blue to win the American Turf by a head. The runner-up, owned by Leonard Green and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, also is nominated to the Penn Mile, setting up a rematch of rising stars in the division.
Now in its sixth year, the Penn Mile, to be run June 1, has established itself as one of the most important turf races for 3-year-olds in the country. The race has been won by the Brown-trained Bobby's Kitten in 2014, who subsequently captured the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, and Catch a Glimpse, the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner. Last year's winner, Hawkish, already has won and placed in two stakes starts this year.
The Penn Mile is the centerpiece of a spectacular card featuring eight stakes races worth a total of $1.3 million. The other stakes highlights include the co-featured $200,000 Penn Oaks listed stakes for 3-year-old fillies running a mile on the turf and four MATCH Series races for top runners in the Mid-Atlantic.
In total, the eight stakes races drew 241 nominations for the Penn Mile program that gets underway at 2:45 p.m.
“We are thrilled with the support we received from the horsemen for Penn Mile Day,” said Eric Johnston, director of racing operations for Penn National. “This is shaping up to be one of the best race cards in the history of the track. We're proud to have developed a program that so many of the top outfits in the country are circling on their calendar.”
Digital Age, who won the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs along with the American Turf, and A Thread of Blue, a graded stakes winner this past winter at Gulfstream Park, aren't the only standouts being considered for the Penn Mile. The race attracted nominations from 19 stakes winners, nine of whom have won graded stakes.
Powerful trainer Todd Pletcher has six nominees to the Penn Mile, including The Elkstone Group's Social Paranoia, who finished third, just three-quarters of a length behind Digital Age, in the American Turf Stakes. Pletcher also is considering a run by St. Elias Stable's Clint Maroon, an English-bred riding a three-race winning streaking, including a four-length score in the Woodhaven in April at Aqueduct.
In that race, Clint Maroon held off another highly regarded Penn Mile nominee, August Dawn Farm's Forty Under, trained by Jeremiah Englehart, who won the Grade 3 Pilgrim last September at Belmont Park, defeating Social Paranoia. Forty Under then raced gamely in second before fading to sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Trainer Graham Motion has five runners nominated to the Penn Mile, led by Paul Braverman and Timothy Pinch's Solidify, who won his only two starts as a 2-year-old, including the Grade 2 Grey Stakes at Woodbine. The Penn Mile would be Solidify's seasonal debut. Motion also nominated Calumet Farm's English Bee, a sharp winner of the James W. Murphy Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
One of the most accomplished nominees is Henley's Joy, who races for Bloom Racing Stable and trainer Michael Maker. The son of Kitten's Joy has faced stakes company eight times in nine career starts, winning the Pulpit Stakes by 4½ lengths last December at Gulfstream Park and finishing second in the Grade 3 Bourbon and Grade 3 Transylvania stakes, both at Keeneland.
Another intriguing nominee is Team Valor International and Gary Barber's The Black Album, a French-bred stakes winner at Longchamp, who contested the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and finished third in the Transylvania and a close-up and troubled seventh in the American Turf.
Of the 30 fillies nominated to the Penn Oaks, four are graded stakes winners, six have won listed stakes and another six are placed in graded and listed stakes. One of the stars of the group is Katsumi Yoshida's The Mackem Bullet, an Irish-bred for Wesley Ward who is also cross-nominated to the Penn Mile.
The Mackem Bullet placed in top group stakes company three times in Europe, including a neck loss in the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheverley Park Stakes at Newmarket before transferring to this country to compete in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She finished sixth that day after early trouble and rebounded the following month with a 10 ½-length score in an allowance at Turfway Park.
In two starts as a 3-year-old, she finished fourth when challenging males in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway on Polytrack and then returned to the turf to take the Grade 2 Appalachian by an authoritative 2 ¼ lengths on April 7 at Keeneland.
The runner-up in the Appalachian, the twice graded stakes-placed Regal Glory, owned by Paul Pompa and trained by Chad Brown, is also nominated to the Penn Oaks.
Another interesting nominee to the Penn Oaks is Debby Oxley's Chocolate Kisses, winner of the Grade 3 Honeybee on the dirt in March at Oaklawn Park, who is 2-for-3 with a graded-stakes placing on turf.
Among the nominees for the $100,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup, a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up, is defending champion Oak Bluffs, a 9-year-old winner of 13 turf races who is now in the barn of trainer Jorge Navarro.
Watts Humphrey Jr.'s Morticia, a blazing daughter of Twirling Candy trained by George “Rusty” Arnold, is nominated as well. Last year, Morticia won the Penn Ladies Dash, which has been converted into a dirt race this year. She is a seven-time stakes winner who won the Giant's Causeway Stakes in April at Keeneland.
On Penn Mile Day, the Penn Ladies Dash, Chocolate Town Sprint, Susquehanna Stakes and Pennsylvania Governor's Cup are all MATCH Series races. The five-month series traverses five different racetracks and encompasses four different divisions, with $2 million in prize money and $400,000 in bonuses on the line for owners, trainers, breeders and certifiers.
Standard box seats or box seat suites for the Penn Mile can be purchased by calling (717) 469-3210.
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