10/29/2013 10:44AM

Dick Jerardi: Horses with Mid-Atlantic ties abundant in Breeders' Cup

Tom Keyser
If Princess of Sylmar wins the Distaff, she would become the fourth Pennsylvania-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race.

With more chances for good horses to run for more money, racing in the Mid-Atlantic region has undergone a sea change in recent years. Two years ago, Afleet Again went from the Parx Racing backstretch to win the Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs. Last year, Trinniberg ran second in the Gallant Bob at Parx before winning the BC Sprint at Santa Anita.

Horses that have run and won at the Mid-Atlantic tracks are all over the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, to be run Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita.

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Horse of the Year and Classic favorite Game On Dude won the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 20, the richest race in the country for older horses outside the BC itself. Classic contender Ron the Greek was a close third in the Charles Town Classic behind Game On Dude.

The brilliant 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar began her career at Penn National last October. Somehow, she finished fourth in her first race before winning her next start by 19 lengths. Harry Vega’s ride in that debut is worth a look for those wondering how exactly the Princess ever could have finished fourth in any maiden race and gotten a 39 Beyer Figure.

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If Princess of Sylmar wins the Distaff, she would become the fourth Pennsylvania-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race, joining Go For Wand, Tikkanen, and Alphabet Soup.

Dance to Bristol, running in the Filly and Mare Sprint, can be claimed by Maryland and West Virginia. The brilliantly fast filly is stabled at the Bowie Training Center, and has raced eight times at Laurel Park and once at Pimlico. She made her debut at Charles Town and won the Sugar Maple there by nine lengths back in April in the race just prior to Game On Dude’s Charles Town Classic win.

“Having two horses race at Charles Town within 45 minutes of each other and then both be one win away from an Eclipse Award in their division a little more than six months later speaks volumes about how far our program and the programs at Penn Gaming tracks have come,” said Chris McErlean, Penn National Gaming’s vice president of racing. “This gives us some great momentum for the new Penn Gaming Racing Challenge next year to help bind them together a little bit more.”

Defending Filly and Mare Sprint champion Groupie Doll ran at Charles Town in 2011 when she finished second in the Charles Town Oaks.

Book Review, also in the Filly and Mare Sprint, won the 2012 Charles Town Oaks. Most recently, she ran a strong second to Dance to Bristol in the Ballerina at Saratoga.

Tightend Touchdown (Turf Sprint) ran like a wild horse to win the Governor’s Cup on the first Penn Mile Day back in June at Penn National.

Dirt Mile contender Pants On Fire finished sixth in the 2012 Charles Town Classic and third in this year’s Mountainview Handicap on Penn Mile Day. Mountainview winner Easter Gift is on the also-eligible list for the Dirt Mile.

Sum of the Parts (Sprint) won the 2012 Red Legend at Charles Town.

Royal Delta, the winner of the Delaware Handicap the last two years, will be going for her third consecutive Distaff.

“The most recent renewals have solidified the position of the Delaware Handicap as the filly and mare summer classic on the national calendar,” said John Mooney the executive director of racing at Delaware Park.

Brujo de Olleros (Dirt Mile) won the Carl Hanford Memorial at Delaware on Aug. 19. Mexikoma, a dazzling winner of a Sept. 12 maiden race at Delaware, is in the Juvenile. Rick Mettee trains both horses.

Parx Racing will also be well represented at the BC.

The winners of the Cotillion Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby will be in the centerpiece races on Friday and Saturday.

Close Hatches (Distaff) was an impressive winner of the Cotillion, even though it was her first race in three months. Will Take Charge (Classic) proved his Travers win was no fluke when he ran away from the field in the stretch to win the Pa. Derby.

The second-place horses in those races are also entered. Moreno, second to Will Take Charge, goes in the Classic. Sweet Lulu, second to Close Hatches, goes in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Street Girl, third in the Cotillion, will run in the Distaff.

The 1 3/4-mile Marathon on Friday will include a son of Parx Racing legend Smarty Jones. And that horse, Indian Jones, will be coming right off the Parx backstretch for perennial top trainer Phil Aristone. Indian Jones will be very live. Two starts ago he ran second by a nose in the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup against 2010 Marathon winner Eldaafer. Parx jockey Angel Castillo gets the ride.

“When you start stretching out over a mile and an eighth, the pool gets a lot smaller,” Aristone said.

And it gets smaller still at 1 3/4 miles. Indian Jones started his career at Santa Anita in February 2010. He is now in the form of his life. Like so many of the other BC horses with Mid-Atlantic connections, the horse has a serious chance of winning.