06/29/2013 4:23PM

Parx Racing: Pianist tries to follow up breakthrough win in Penny Memorial

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Barbara D. Livingston
Pianist won the Gallorette Handicap in May at Pimlico for her first graded stakes victory and returns in Tuesday's Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Parx Racing.

One sees it regularly. Race after race, a horse takes strangely heavy betting action, going off at odds far below fair value. Race after race, the horse lets down its mysterious legion of backers. The money finally goes elsewhere – and that’s the day the horse finally breaks out.

Such is the story of Pianist, a beaten favorite four times in 10 starts, hammered to odds-on in a pair of stakes defeats late last year and bet down to 5-2 second-favoritism when overwhelmed this winter at Gulfstream Park by the top-level Centre Court. In the May 18 Gallorette, Pianist went off at 6-1, by far the highest price of her career, as trainer Chad Brown’s other entrant, Samitar, was bet to even money.

Samitar went nowhere, but Pianist went boom, scoring a sharp, front-running 2 3/4-length victory, her first graded stakes win.

The question now is, can she do it again? Pianist is one of eight fillies and mares – including the coupled entry of Laughing and Dinner’s Out – entered in the Grade 3, $250,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap on Tuesday at Parx. The handicap conditions mean little, with all but one of the horses weighted between 116 and 118 pounds.

The Penny, like the Gallorette, is a 1 1/16-mile grass race but appears to present a deeper set of opponents than Pianist defeated at Pimlico.

There also is the Pimlico turf-course profile during Preakness weekend to consider when weighing Pianist’s chances: The grass there favored front-running types, and Pianist hardly slowed after setting a strong pace. Mike Smith rode her for the first time that day and has a return call, and Smith figures to take his chances again on or near the front end.

Pianist figures to find company there from Laughing, though the Penny pace does not project as especially swift.

Hessonite should fall into a good tracking spot after breaking from the rail and will have a chance to improve upon her second-place finish in the 2012 Penny. Hessonite appeared to flounder over soft turf last out in the Sheepshead Bay, where she finished a distant sixth at an 11-furlong distance probably farther than her best. She has since worked a swift half-mile for trainer David Donk and is a five-time winner going 1 1/16 miles.

Miz Ida and Somali Lemonade also can win. Miz Ida, in from Churchill for trainer Steve Margolis, has yet to undertake a major shipping experience like this, but her last-start, come-from-behind score over Daisy Devine in the Mint Julep Handicap suggested that the 4-year-old Miz Ida still is moving forward. Somali Lemonade, a one-run closer, should be ready to improve after a June 2 prep race in a Belmont allowance, her first start of 2013.