07/03/2013 1:51PM

Parx Racing: Tightend Touchdown rolls into Parx Dash Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Tightend Touchdown scored a career-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his 5 1/2-length win in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup on June 1 at Penn National.

Ron Lombardi could have been content to have more than doubled his money after Tightend Touchdown was claimed from his Mr. Amore Stable for $30,000 two days after Christmas. Instead, Lombardi went right back and reclaimed the 4-year-old Tightend Touchdown a month later for $35,000.

Fast forward a little more than five months. Lombardi and his trainer, Jason Servis, look like a couple of geniuses. Tightend Touchdown came within 0.01 of a second of Penn National’s five-furlong turf record in winning the $135,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup on June 1 and is one of the top choices in the Grade 3, $200,000 Parx Dash Handicap.

The five-furlong turf sprint is part of a special Friday card that begins at 2 p.m. Eastern. The Dash goes as race 7 at 5 p.m.

Watching a claimed horse transform into a stakes winner is not a new experience for Lombardi, who lives in Mountain Lakes, N.J. In his first season of operating his stable in 2008, Lombardi claimed American Border for $30,000 at Monmouth Park. She went on to win the Grade 3 Violet Handicap and the Miss Liberty Stakes.

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He explained that he was not ready to let go of Tightend Touchdown, who won back-to-back sprints, one on dirt and the other on turf, in two of the three starts he made for his connections after being claimed for $35,000 last July at Saratoga. Had Lombardi walked away when Tightend Touchdown was claimed Dec. 27, he would have made $38,200 on his original investment.

“I will sometimes reclaim a horse if I like the horse and he’s sound,” said Lombardi, who has 50 horses, split almost evenly between those he has claimed and those bought at auction. “Both Jason and I really liked this horse.”

At the suggestion of Servis, Tightend Touchdown focused on turf sprints this spring, winning a six-furlong sprint at Belmont with a 98 Beyer Speed Figure on May 16. That win planted the seed of trying stakes company in the Governor’s Cup. But Tightend Touchdown almost didn’t get to run.

The van taking him from New York to central Pennsylvania got stuck on Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania near the site of a fatal accident. The van sat in traffic for almost three hours and barely arrived at Penn National in time. Horses must be on the grounds at least 2 1/2 hours before post time.

“We made it four minutes before the deadline,” Lombardi said.

Tightend Touchdown, with Javier Castellano riding, cruised on the front end, winning the Governor’s Cup by 5 1/2 lengths and earning a career-best 105 Beyer. Lombardi said he is not overly concerned that the horse will regress from that huge effort.

“There are no guarantees with horses,” Lombardi said. “But he’s doing well since the last race, and we think he can still move up some more.”

Ben’s Cat, the 7-year-old who has won 21 of 32 races and $1.48 million, was beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Tightend Touchdown in the Governor’s Cup but may have been much closer with a cleaner trip. Jockey Julian Pimentel had to check sharply and steer Ben’s Cat far outside when Kyma bore out on the turn and interfered with several rivals.

Ben’s Cat did pass three horses in deep stretch and flew home his last furlong in 11.26 seconds, but he was too far behind Tightend Touchdown to make much of an impact and had to settle for third.

Ben’s Cat won last year’s Parx Dash at 10-1 but will be nowhere near that price Friday. He has three wins and a second in four starts on Parx’s turf course.

The field also includes the Todd Pletcher-trained Bridgetown, winner of last fall’s Grade 3 Woodford at Keeneland. He was second in the Governor’s Cup and the runner-up to Ben’s Cat as the 9-10 favorite in last year’s Parx Dash. Bridgetown will be ridden for the first time by John Bisono, Parx’s leading jockey.