Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo

Race of the Week – $500,000 Penn Mile

PennMilePenn National’s introducing a new stakes race this year. It may look familiar to those of us at Canterbury due to the conditions – A rich purse attached to a middle-distance turf race for three year olds. Hmmmmm…

The Penn Mile is a similar oasis to the Mystic Lake Derby – An alternative to the traditional summer classics for three year olds who just don’t like dirt or don’t show the same kick on the dirt as on the lawn. Management has to be tickled with the cast assembled for said race, as the quality is deep and demonstrates the relative lull in the action for young turf horses at this time of year. The setup of the race indicates what a lot of recently-handicapped turf races have – a lack of pace outside of a favorite or two. On paper the race sort of falls into Rydilluc’s hooves, but his resume will prevent a price and that just can’t happen. Let’s gander at each and decide from there:

1. Noble Tune – Chad Brown’s model of consistency just does his job well regardless of turf condition, location or jockey. He’s traveled to five different venues, carried three different jockeys and has been favored in each of his five career starts despite the variables. He’s not reliant on pace either, as the fractions have ranged greatly in his lifetime and he’s managed to catch all but one horse in that gaudy, stakes winning bunch. He’s a deserving morning line favorite but with one that comes to hand this early the questions always lingers – When do the rest catch up to this talent? Will they ever? I may be guilty of taking a shot against him each time until he loses but this sort of EXTREMELY precocious youngster never lands in the bettable column until that time anyway.

2. Pitch N Roll – Whatever half of his name you choose to do with him is up to you. I can see the stealing it on the inside angle, especially with Huber Villa-Gomez aboard. I’ve seen the toteboard all lit up with him in the winners’ circle many a time, but even this one is going to take some magic. This is a heck of a spot to make your turf debut if you’re looking to go from zero to hero in the turf three year old rankings! Coming off the bench in 2013 with a figure that blows your lifetime best out of the water either sets you up for a banner three year old campaign with a late start or… a bounce.

3. Yougotthatgoinforu – Speaking of great set-up races… yikes. What to make of the horse that clips heels and comes right back for more? Not much for yours truly. He’s essentially doing the same thing as Pitch N Roll, and doing so off a non-race. Kudos to Flores for hopping back in the saddle, as their Preakness Day foray was pear shaped from the word go. He basically was sitting down in the saddle with his feet in the dashboard on the horse trying to get him off others’ heels, but failed and ended up slipping off around the first turn. Looks like the horse knows his job and we know their strategy, but being that thick-headed won’t serve him well should anyone try and run with him.

4. Are You Kidding Me – He’s Grade 2 placed and he’s in the best of hands, but when it comes down to it he’s another reeeeeeally nice allowance horse that seeks his first win against stakes competition in a deep spot. The Summer Stakes at Woodbine nearly sealed the deal for him but he came up half a length short on yielding turf. It’s very possible that the conditions could come up the same on Saturday but the form of the Summer has not come back strong at all. Two have not raced since, one was recently entered for a tag and none have won. He gave Noble Tune a run for his money and no one can take that away from him, but he was not gaining on that one at the end and barring a complete reverse in fortunes the result should not reverse either.

5. Triple Cross – The horse has routed twice and did not hit the board in either – One of those being a Florida-bred stakes race on the turf. To add to that statement, he’s beaten four horses home in both efforts combined. He’s versatile enough in respect to surface or venue but he’s done the majority of his serious running on synthetic surfaces and seems best suited to a race on such, regardless of distance. The turf sprint at Keeneland obviously was good but it was a SPRINT as well as an allowance. If either of those conditions were present in this spot I’d give a much longer look this way. For now, it’s a blink and a page turn.

6. Jack Milton – On the pure, raw talent end of things this horse may be right near the top of this field. He’s fairly undeveloped though, and despite his three good races thus far aren’t those usually three of the best in any Pletcher runner’s resume? The conditioned races are the easy part for this barn, it’s usually figuring out what to do with all that pedigree and talent that gets tricky. He was nominated to the Triple Crown but has never set foot off the turf, an interesting underline to the grass capability this runner must have shown from the start. His sister Peace Preserver was also a Pletcher runner who cost right around the same as a two year old at auction as her brother did as a yearling. Has that given Pletcher a bit of insight as to this colt from the start? Seems like it. He needs pace to run at but he (like the favorite) has caught all but one in his brief career. Fire Guard is a nice Mott runner that beat him that day but had the tables turned on him violently in the Transylvania. If he’s not a presence in this race, he will be in turf stakes down the road. Has a very Delegation (ahem, MLD) type of feel to him.

7. Rydilluc – I wouldn’t be surprised if he went off as the favorite with the lack of classy speed to his inside, but something about this horse sort of leads me away from him. He ran very well in the Bluegrass and was the only survivor when the closers mobbed him en masse, but now returns to his surface of choice. He could get a dream trip sitting off either Yougotthatgoinforu or Pitch N Roll, but how cranked will he be off this short freshening? Unlike some of the rest that have been aiming for this spot for some time, this appears to be on the road back to graded stakes rather than the target for Contessa’s runner. He may like the cut back of a furlong as well, but neither of his mile races scream off the page and more money may head to this corner than necessary. I’ve heard the “best horse I’ve ever trained” from a very good conditioner, but I’d prefer that statement after a grade 1 victory rather than a grade 3.

8. Charming Kitten – Hard to call this guy the “other” Pletcher but I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder. He made the derby run for Ramsey, as expected, and didn’t come out with much more than a muddy face. It’s about being there though, right? While I’m not exactly in that school of thought, he’s not my horse….but I digress. Before and after winning his father’s stakes race he’s carved out an honest living picking up checks, but has never really been that horse that you’re afraid of blowing by you down the stretch. The horse he held off in the Kitten’s Joy, Bamabzonkie, came out of the race with a lung infection and hasn’t quite returned the same since that time. ‘Kitten took his share of action on the toteboard until hitting the Derby trail and most likely will return to those ways in here, but both Pletchers make too much sense not to use.

I like Jack Milton to continue his development as a top turf three year old in this spot but with so many top prospects lined up keep a close eye on the toteboard – Someone is bound to get away from the crowd with a very big chance! Best of luck on Saturday at Canterbury and around the country!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 will mark her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.