03/12/2013 11:41AM

Dick Jerardi: Penn National looks to fill hole on national calendar with Penn Mile


Dan Silver had a model in mind. He just needed to sift through all the possibilities and find a signature race at the right time in the right category on the correct surface for Penn National. Silver, who became the director of racing for Penn National last fall, knew this much when he began his search: “We wanted to follow the Charles Town model, where they created the $1 million Charles Town Classic, which is now a million and a half.”

Silver looked at the racing calendar, trying to determine “what would work best both in the placing and the type of race. We looked across all categories throughout the entire year to see what would make the most sense.”

The answer turned out to be the $500,000 Penn Mile for 3-year-olds on the turf, two weeks after the Preakness and a week before the Belmont Stakes. The first Penn Mile, the richest racing in track history, will be Saturday, June 1. HRTV will be at the track to chronicle that race, along with the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap (main track, 1 1/8 miles), the $150,000 Governor’s Cup (five furlongs, grass) and two Pennsylvania-bred stakes.

“We’ve got a great turf course,” Silver said.

The Governor’s Cup, which has been run since 1973, not long after the track opened, had always been the track’s signature race. Now, they have a new signature along with the old and a few more stakes to make the first Saturday in June the biggest day in the history of Penn National.

“One of the categories that sort of jumped out as being a little bit underserved was 3-year-olds on the turf,” Silver said.

There simply are not many stakes races for 3-year-olds on grass at that time of year. The Penn Mile, Silver figured, could fill that void. And he also thought the track could attract some horses that were on the Triple Crown trail and possibly even a few horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby whose trainers were looking for a big purse, easier company, and a surface change.

“We thought maybe we would get some really good established 3-year-old turf horses in addition to some horses that might end up being very good 3-year-old turf horses, trying to bring those groups of horses together,” Silver said.

The date was chosen to take advantage of the Triple Crown, when the sport gets a spotlight it gets at no other time.

“We’re hopeful that by putting this race during the Triple Crown period, we might be able to capitalize on some of the enhanced attention that is already being paid to horse racing during that Triple Crown period,” Silver said.

Running on track, not away from it

Jockey Abel Castellano caught the race of the year on his cell phone camera when, on Jan. 11, Bullet Catcher tossed Jeremy Rose following a workout at Laurel Park and ran out of the stable gate, then took a left turn on Whiskey Bottom Road and another left on U.S. Route 1. The jockey saw the horse on Route 1 running with traffic and started taping. Bullet Catcher was eventually caught and returned to his barn uninjured.

The horse went 1.6 miles that day, but just 5 1/2 furlongs last Saturday at Laurel. With Castellano riding for the first time, the 4-year-old gelding finished second with no traffic problems.

Carmouche still winning at Parx

Kendrick Carmouche became the first jockey in the history of Parx Racing to win four consecutive riding titles when he led the standings in 2011. He abdicated his crown in 2012, when he spent much of the summer at Monmouth Park. He still finished third in the 2012 standings, with 100 winners at Parx. He has been a regular at Parx in 2013 and is second in the standings to John Bisono after the first two months of the season.

Charles Town supports CANTER

CANTER Mid-Atlantic, whose mission is to rehabilitate and find homes for former race horses, has been getting grant funding from Hollywood Casino at Charles Town races for several years.

This year, Charles Town will present a $10,000 donation to CANTER during the April 20 Charles Town Classic Card. CANTER will be the presenting sponsor of the $200,000 Sugar Maple, the richest of the undercard races.