07/30/2002 11:00PM

Distance change does the trick


The Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap, Penn National's most prestigious stakes race, has undergone two major changes this season.

The Governor's Cup, which will be run for the 30th time Saturday night, remains on the turf, but has been shortened in distance from 1 1/16 miles to five furlongs. The purse has also been reduced, from $100,000 to $50,000.

The Governor's Cup, which gained notoriety in 1980 when Told set a world record of 1:38 for 1 1/16 miles on turf, is now the culmination of three stakes scheduled for this weekend at the Grantville, Pa., oval. Friday night's program includes the inaugural running of two stakes, the $50,000 Jenny Wade Handicap for fillies and mares and the $30,000 John J. Shumaker Handicap for statebreds.

Racing secretary Paul Jenkins explained the Governor's Cup was shortened to a sprint in an attempt to attract more horses.

"There are a large number of middle-distance grass stakes run at tracks in the mid-Atlantic region every summer," Jenkins said. "It's become harder each year to attract a large number of quality nominees for any of those events. We observed that there aren't nearly the number of opportunities for stakes-class turf sprinters."

Horsemen responded to the distance change by submitting 39 nominees.

The prospective field for the Governor's Cup is headed by Texas Glitter. The 6-year-old Texas Glitter, trained by Todd Pletcher, has recorded triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in six of his last seven starts, including a 103 when he finished third in the Grade 3 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine in his most recent start.

Stakes winners Bop and Governor's Pride are also possible starters.

Bop has won three of his four starts this year, earning a 98 Beyer for his win in the Punch Line Stakes at Colonial Downs.

Governor's Pride has primarily raced on dirt, but switched to turf last time out and responded with a win in an overnight stakes at Delaware Park.

The prime contenders in the five-furlong Jenny Wade are Scootin' Girl, who finished second to Bop facing males; Broad Victory, a recent sprint stakes winner at Colonial Downs; and 8-year-old mare Orage d'Hiver, an eight-time winner at the distance.

Tonto Gusto, who is 5 for 7 at Penn National, and Grangeville, who makes a rare appearance on dirt for trainer Jonathan Sheppard, look like the prime threats in the six-furlong Shumaker Handicap.