12/09/2014 11:24AM

Jerardi: Penn Mile makes the grade

B&D Photography
Bobby's Kitten wins the Penn Mile on May 31. The 2015 running of that race will carry Grade 3 status.

If you are trying to build credibility for a new race, it never hurts when your winner goes on to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Bobby’s Kitten won the Penn Mile last spring like a horse who would go on to win major races. He proved it at Santa Anita. His run from nowhere in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was obviously not impossible. It just seemed that way before it actually happened.

So, when they run the Penn Mile for the third time in 2015, it will come with Grade 3 status, the first graded race at Penn National since the 1989 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup.

Without a special exception, a race must be run twice to be eligible for a grade. The Penn Mile needed just two runnings to get its grade.

“We’re incredibly proud of the work everyone has done to make the Penn Mile one of the country’s preeminent races for 3-year-old turf horses in such a short time,” Penn National director of racing Eric Johnston said. “To be awarded a Grade 3 after two runnings is a significant accomplishment for our racing program and everyone affiliated with it.”

The 16 horses who ran in the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Penn Mile have combined to win 12 graded stakes and place in 21 others. Next year’s $500,000 Penn Mile is expected to be run May 30.

The old theory is that if you give players quality cards to bet on, they will respond by betting like it will be the last day they are allowed to bet. The two Penn Mile Days have proved it, generating the two highest one-day handles in track history.

In 2013, bettors sent $3,658,996 through the windows, which beat the old single-card record by nearly $1.5 million. Players bet $1,139,478 on just the Penn Mile, crushing the old single-race mark of $377,365 on the 2009 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup. This year, players bet $2,665,790 on the card.

Penn Gaming Challenge winners

The Penn Gaming Racing Challenge, started this year, consisted of 21 stakes races worth a total of $5.25 million at Charles Town, Penn National, Sam Houston Race Park, and Zia Park. In addition to the purses, there were bonuses and prizes for the winners associated with the series.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey own Bobby’s Kitten, who was trained by Chad Brown and ridden in the Penn Mile by Javier Castellano. The Ramseys were the only owners to win more than one Challenge race and ended up with 52 points, 11 points better than George and Lori Hall and good enough for a free trip to the Penn National Gaming-owned M Resort in Las Vegas. Brown and Castellano also get that same trip.

In 2015, any horse the Ramseys or Brown run in an unrestricted stakes race at a Penn Gaming-owned track will be entitled to a refund of all fees paid once the horse starts.

Castellano, who had only four mounts in the Challenge, blew away the field when he not only won the Penn Mile but also the Mountainview Handicap with Last Gunfighter and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup with Tightend Touchdown, along with a third in the Penn Oaks with Ready to Act on the same day. Angel Serpa, Jevian Toledo, and Kerwin Clark each won two races in the series.

Brown beat Tom Amoss by six points on the strength of two wins (also Last Gunfighter), a third in the Penn Mile (Storming Inti), and a third in the Penn Oaks (Ready to Act) on Penn Mile Day. That is a lifetime for some trainers. For Brown, it was just a prelude to his three winners over two days in the Breeders’ Cup.

◗ With only a handful of days left in the year, Jose Montano and Dana Whitney have essentially clinched the jockeys’ titles at Charles Town and Penn National, respectively.