03/04/2014 1:22PM

Dick Jerardi: Penn Gaming Racing Challenge raises tracks' profile

Barbara D. Livingston
Rydilluc wins the inaugural Penn Mile at Penn National in June.

The two Penn National Gaming tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region, Charles Town and Penn National, have carved out a significant stakes presence every spring with the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic and now the $500,000 Penn Mile.

Those races are part of the first Penn Gaming Racing Challenge, which began in January with the Houston Ladies Classic night at Sam Houston and has five events remaining. The Challenge awards points to owners, trainers, and jockeys based on participation and results. The winners of the yearlong series will get waivers of stakes fees at Penn Gaming tracks for a year and a trip to Penn National Gaming’s M Resort in Las Vegas.

The Charles Town Classic, won last year by Game On Dude, and the four other events will be shown on HRTV.

“We value our relationship with HRTV and look forward to them and their talent showcasing our events in 2014,” said Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming. “HRTV has been there every step of the way with the events at Charles Town, and we look forward to partnering with them again as we try and grow the events at our other properties in a similar fashion.”

The Charles Town Classic is set for April 19 and is the richest race for Thoroughbreds in North America outside of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup.

“The Charles Town Classic has grown into a premier racing event,” said Scott Daruty, president of HRTV. “We are pleased to offer the Charles Town Classic, together with the other races in the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge to our national audience of racing enthusiasts.”

[MID-ATLANTIC RACING: Complete DRF coverage, weekly video previews]

The Penn Mile is set for May 31. The Charles Town Race for the Ribbon program on Sept. 20 will be topped by the track’s newest graded stakes, the Grade 3, $500,000 Charles Town Oaks.

The final two events in the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge will be on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 26: the Land of Enchantment Day at Zia Park and Penn National’s $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap, won last year by Ben’s Cat.

Quick start for Rodriguez

Israel Rodriguez got his first ride in the United States last Friday at Laurel Park, winning the fifth race on Inspeightofthegold for trainer Juan Vazquez. He was 3 for 36 at Camarero in Puerto Rico this year before coming to Maryland.

“He will be the next Carrasco,” Vazquez predicted in the winner’s circle.

That would be something. In 2013, Victor Carrasco became the 10th Maryland-based rider to win the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice. He won 215 races, and his mounts earned $4.35 million.

Elliott keeps winning at Parx

It has been a decade since Stewart Elliott won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and almost the Triple Crown aboard Smarty Jones, but the 49-year-old rider just keeps winning races at Parx.

This year, he is 16-8-6 from 63 mounts. In his career, which began in 1981, he has 4,613 wins from 29,163 rides and mount earnings of $91.6 million.

Elliott was a very good jockey before Smarty Jones and is still a very good rider today. But 2004 was obviously his year of years, with 262 wins and mount earnings of $14.5 million, helped along by that Oaklawn Park $5 million bonus.

Some have criticized Elliott’s ride aboard Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes, but the result was more about circumstances than anything he did or did not do in that race.

If you want to watch Elliott at his very best, go back and watch the Derby just after the finish line the first time. Smarty Jones was in the middle of a five-horse scrum. If Elliott had been passive, the colt might have been behind half the field coming out of the first turn. Instead, he was aggressive, and so was his mount. They both wanted clear running. The rest is history.

◗ Jose Montano won the 2012 Eclipse Award as top apprentice after winning 225 races. He was having another great season in 2013, with 198 winners, when he broke a leg in early October. He is just getting back to riding at Charles Town and had seven wins, five seconds, and three thirds from his first 25 rides.

Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
It doen't make a lot of sense to award points and bonuses based on participation in the series, yet the final two races are on the same date at tracks thousands of miles apart.
Ian Chef King More than 1 year ago
In support of Gunner, you couldn't have said it better. You're the only one other than myself who clearly understand race riding and pointed out both Gary on Rock hard Ten and Bailey on Eddington both race horse chasers. Who did every thing in their power to prevent Stewie from winning. Those who blame him don't know any better it's simply a case of a small track rider but little did they know Stewart Elliot dominated their beloved Edgar Prado in their early days @ Suffolk Downs before going to Maryland. I'm quite sure Stewie rode a much better race than Kent on Real Quiet who move too soon! But no one is being critical here simply because he's a name jockey.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
They really took turns going after Smarty and Stewie and I bet a lot of the jocks would reconsider their rides in hind-sight. Smarty Jones would have been a fine TC Champ. I mean, Rock Hard Ten and Gary Stevens made a move with 6F to go which made no sense unless, you consider the other 5 questionable rides and... But you are right. Stewart Elliott is a fine rider.
Michael Ferry More than 1 year ago
All the horses that challenged early him ended up in the last 3 spots..no way they were letting that rag tag bunch from Philly win the triple crown...still get pisssed when I hear the name "eddington"
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
These "novelty" races are Ok, however, winning the Charles Town Classic isn't going to get you much "Horse of the Year" consideration. In all fairness it will get the winning connections about $900,000 (60%), but the next racing night Charles Town will revert to 4 1/2 furlong claimers. One good thing about Charles Town and Mountaineer is the "bridge jumpers" get $2.20 instead of $2.10. Yes, I cashed a big show bet on GOD last year. Would not have made the bet at any other facility.
blah blah More than 1 year ago
actually the winner is guaranteed an even million
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Walter More than 1 year ago
After all the infractions and cheating that has gone on at Pen over the last 10 years, this track should not get any publicity. If you don't believe it, just google horse race fixing. It's fact.
Don Demeza More than 1 year ago
It is shocking how our society has devolved to the point where we believe that any accusations made by the media must be the truth. We assume anyone who is under the media microscope MUST be guilty. The lack of due diligence by the masses when educating themselves about this topic is shameful. When politicians like Rep. Todd Stephens of PA sponsors a bill which would end racing and breeding in PA as we know under the guise that it's the "..sport of kings" which merely makes the rich, richer clearly he has no clue of the realities of the business and of the hard working and dedicated people who are in it. If our representatives are not doing their due diligence and making decisions blindly that could affect 10's of thousands of people, it is certainly asking too much for the average bloggers of the world to do their due diligence. No doubt there are some people in racing that are looking for an edge and will cross the line in order to get an advantage but, the vast majority of horseman want a level playing field and understand that anything less is self defeating.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Kinda speaks to the medicated media.
Kevin More than 1 year ago
And yet you all keep voting for sociopathic republiklan jackasses and expect different results...which is a description of insanity.