05/27/2009 11:00PM

Gonzalez set to snag big pot

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
St John's Gospel (right), beating open company at Laurel, faces lesser rivals Friday.

Trainers with strings of horses in Maryland and Philadelphia Park may be in the strongest position to snare the bulk of the $250,000 in purse money up for grabs among Pennsylvania-bred and Pennsylvania-sired horses in three stakes on Friday night's card at Penn National.


The well-traveled St John's Gospel, a two-time stakes winner for Philly Park-based trainer Andrea Gonzalez, looks like a standout in the program's richest race, the $100,000 Power by Far for 3-year-olds.

Steve Klesaris, who has strings of runners at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland and Delaware Park, looks prepared for either turf or a wet main track with his coupled entry of Coastal Solace and Speechifying in the $75,000 Robellino for fillies and mares, the same race in which the Doc Fisher-trained Opera Heroine, based at Fair Hill, looms dangerous off a long layoff if the race remains on grass.

Luckifee, from the high-percentage Laurel Park barn of Rodney Jenkins, appears formidable in the $75,000 Nepal at 1 1/16 miles.

St John's Gospel owns a distinct class edge in the six-furlong Power by Far (race 3). He has already won the Pennsylvania Nursery at his home track and the one-mile Private Terms against open company at Laurel in March.

In contrast, six of his seven opponents are either still maidens or have just one lifetime win.

With the forecast calling for three straight days of rain in central Pennsylvania, followed by the threat of scattered thunderstorms on Friday, there's a possibility the 1 1/16-mile Robellino (race 1) could be contested on either soft turf or moved to the main track.

Klesaris is prepared for either scenario. Speechifying, a seven-time winner on dirt, ran well in her only try over a synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs last summer, a clue that she may take to the turf. Coastal Solace has been first or second in all five of her starts on wet surfaces,

On grass, where she is 5 for 11 lifetime, Opera Heroine looks tough. Although she has been idle since November, Fisher is 9 for his last 28 with turf route horses returning from long layoffs, according to DRF's Formulator.

In contrast, trainer Lupe Preciado is 1 for 13 in that same category, which doesn't bode well for the chances of proven turf performer Always for Love.

Luckifee, a 4-year-old gelding who is 4 for 8 lifetime and has won 3 of his last 5 starts, looks imposing in the Nepal (race 4).

His rivals include the 7-year-old sprinter Joey Carson, a winner of 10 of 26 lifetime, who makes a rare start beyond seven furlongs; Dynamic Dan, winner of the one-mile Peppy Addy at Philly Park last August; and Serene Harbor, primarily a turf runner, but who comes off a good effort over a sloppy track at Pimlico.

* The card also includes the $60,000 Changing Times, a six-furlong sprint for open older males. It features a rematch between Acting Zippy, a winner of two straight stakes, and Secretintelligence, who has a stakes win and a near-miss in a turf allowance since dueling for the lead and weakening to second behind Acting Zippy in the Vincent Moscarelli Memorial at Delaware Park in late April.