06/01/2017 11:00AM

Big Score's stretch kick should come in handy in Penn Mile

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Big Score wins the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in April.

The race is the Penn Mile, but its participants will travel far greater distances than that to reach Grantville, Pa., on Saturday for by far the richest day of the Penn National season. In all, $1.51 million in purses will be up for grabs on the 11-race card, which has a special start time of 3:45 p.m. Eastern.

This year’s running has lured Big Score and Cistron from California. They will meet the up-and-coming New Yorker Frostmourne and as many as seven other challengers over a lush course that has been preserved and groomed for this day.

This will be the fifth edition of the $500,000 Penn Mile, a turf race for 3-year-olds that in short order has claimed a spot on the national calendar. Ungraded for its first two runnings, the Penn Mile was upped to a Grade 3 in 2015. On Saturday, it will become the first Grade 2 ever held at Penn National, which opened in 1972.

The program also includes three $200,000 stakes – the Mountainview, Penn Oaks, and Governor’s Cup – and three $100,000 Pennsylvania-bred stakes. The card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

Big Score is the likely Penn Mile favorite based on his late-running score in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland in his 3-year-old debut and a close third in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. He has since had two workouts for trainer Tim Yakteen at Santa Anita.

There appears to be enough speed in the field to provide a nice setup for Big Score.

“He can either sit close to a fast pace and kick home or come from farther back,” Yakteen said.

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Javier Castellano will ride Big Score for the third straight time.

Frostmourne, a stakes winner at 2 over a mile on turf at Belmont Park, is trained by Christophe Clement. In his 3-year-old debut, he finished second, beaten a half-length, in the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct. The winner, Secretary At War, is entered in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park on Saturday.

“He is a lovely horse,” Clement said of Frostmourne. “I feel he has improved since that race.”

Frostmourne will have to overcome the outside post but has tactical speed and Irad Ortiz Jr. to guide him.

Cistron has an interesting race record. He ended his 2-year-old season and began his 3-year-old campaign with four two-turn grass races at Santa Anita and Del Mar. Trainer John Sadler then shipped him to Oaklawn Park for the Northern Spur, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race that he won by a length.

Three weeks ago, Cistron finished second to the promising Arms Runner, who is undefeated in two starts, in the Desert Code, a 6 1/2-furlong, downhill turf race at Santa Anita.

“He’s very versatile,” Sadler said. “He has a stakes win on dirt, but he’s been a little faster in his grass races this year. He’s kind of a ‘tweener’ on distance, but we think he is probably at his best going a mile.”

Cistron is quick and should be sharp coming out of a sprint. He could end up on the lead under Paco Lopez.

Other contenders include Bronson, who is coming off a win in the English Channel at Gulfstream Park on Kentucky Derby Day for Todd Pletcher, and Holiday Stone, who was nailed late by Big Score and finished second in the Transylvania for trainer George Weaver.

Three Diamonds Farm has a three-horse entry comprising Shiraz and Prize Fight, who are trained by Mike Maker, and Bonus Points, who races for Pletcher.

Prize Fight is cross-entered in the Pennine Ridge, but will start in the Penn Mile, Maker said via text Saturday morning.

Parx Derby winner Bonus Points is cross-entered for the main track only in the Pennine Ridge, but dry conditions are forecast in the Northeast through Saturday.

Penn Mile, Race 9

Key contenders

Frostmourne, by Speightstown

Last 3 Beyers: 85-76-74

◗ His Beyer Speed Figures have risen in each of his four starts. Another jump Saturday would make him a strong player from just off the pace.

Big Score, by Mr. Big

Last 3 Beyers: 90-90-84

◗ Yakteen said that if he runs well, the Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby at 1 1/4 miles on July 8 could be his next start.

“He should get the 1 1/4 miles, but he can also be effective at a mile,” Yakteen said.

Cistron, by The Factor

Last 3 Beyers: 90-85-88

◗ Sadler said he was not concerned about running him back on three weeks’ rest because he exited the Desert Code in such good shape.

“He’s doing so well right now, and we want to run them when they are like that,” he said. “We’ll probably give him some time off after this race.”