07/07/2014 11:44AM

Assateague could steal Penny on the lead

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Barbara D. Livingston
Assateague (right) looks to regain the winning form she showed in the 2013 De La Rose Stakes.

Parx Racing has snuck a weekend-worthy card into a normally sleepy Tuesday slot on the calendar.

The program includes a Grade 3 turf stakes, two allowances, a second-level optional claimer, and a starter handicap where the favorite will have to carry 125 pounds 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

The $200,000 James Penny Memorial, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, has attracted an interesting field of eight that will test the deciphering ability of trip handicappers. Additionally, jockeys Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, and Luis Saez will take to the road on a dark day at Belmont Park to compete.

Favoritism in the race may fall to the New York-bred 4-year-old Effie Trinket (Saez). She could not catch the improving 5-year-old Mah Jong Maddnes last time out in the statebred Mount Vernon Stakes at Belmont Park, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

Mah Jong Maddnes set comfortable fractions in that mile turf race and was allowed to get the first six furlongs in 1:11.68. She then came home in 22.74 seconds – the fastest quarter of the race – to cover a mile in 1:34.42. Effie Trinket, who was reserved early, gave her best in the stretch but came up three-quarters of a length short while gaining close to two lengths in the final quarter-mile.

Six of the other Penny entrants exit three races, and several had eventful outings.

Assateague, trained by Michael Matz, and Alaura Michele, sent out by Todd Pletcher, faced each other in the $100,000 Intercontinental at Belmont Park, a seven-furlong turf race. Assateague (Rosario) could never escape the inside in that race while finishing fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length.

Alaura Michele (Castellano), well back early, came wide into the lane and finished with interest to defeat Assateague by a neck while third. She will appreciate the added distance of Tuesday’s race.

Nellie Cashman had a nice 3-year-old season in 2013 despite being disqualified from the win in the Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga. She and Appealing Cat met in the Pennsylvania-bred Lyphard Stakes, run over soft turf at Penn National. Nellie Cashman was rank entering the backstretch of that race and forced to race wide thereafter while finishing third, beaten a length.

Appealing Cat is one of two Graham Motion entrants in the Penny. He said Monday morning that he planned on running both. Appealing Cat made a nice middle move to contention on the far turn but appeared to lose her momentum turning into the stretch and was beaten 2 3/4 lengths.

Game Fair, Motion’s other entrant, and Remember Then come out of a May 25 Pimlico allowance race. Game Fair stumbled at the start of that race and then had to race along the inside throughout while finishing fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths.

Remember Then, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, ran an unusual race. She failed to respond to her rider’s urging and dropped back nearing the stretch. She then found her best stride in the final furlong and was up for second, beaten a length.

There is not a lot of speed in the Penny, which may let Assateague control things up front. That may allow her to spring a mild upset. Nellie Cashman also has reason to improve in her third start of the year, while Effie Trinket and Alaura Michele look like the best closers.

◗ Classic Giancnroll, who has tested some top 3-year-olds in stakes company this year, races in the seventh, a one-mile optional claimer. He was scratched from last Saturday’s seven-furlong Oh Say Stakes at Delaware Park.

◗ Wild Swava, trained by Mike Maker, will concede from eight to 17 pounds in a starter handicap. He has won his last five starts.