05/26/2015 12:51PM

Penn Mile attracts pair of West Coast invaders

Barbara D. Livingston
Ocho Ocho Ocho tries turf for the first time in the Penn Mile.

The $500,000 Penn Mile has extended its reach to California this year as Ocho Ocho Ocho and Papacoolpapacool shared a charter flight on Monday that took them to Allentown, Pa., about an hour’s drive from Penn National in Grantville.

This will be the third edition of the Penn Mile, and its first as a Grade 3. It will be the first graded race held at Penn National since the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup was run as a Grade 3 in 1989.

Last year’s Penn Mile was won by Bobby’s Kitten, who would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. Bobby’s Kitten was trained by Chad Brown, who this year will be represented by Night Prowler, winner of the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland.

:: Penn Mile: Watch live video of Saturday’s card from Penn National

The first Penn Mile in 2013 was won by Rydilluc, trained by Gary Contesssa. Neither of the first two Penn Miles drew a starter from California.

Trainer Jim Cassidy has spotted Ocho Ocho Ocho like a good horse throughout his career. After he won at Santa Anita in his first two starts, Cassidy sent him to Delta Downs for the $1 million Jackpot, which he won by a nose over Mr. Z. This year Ocho Ocho Ocho, a son of Street Sense, has finished eighth in the San Felipe, third in the Blue Grass, and 14th in the Kentucky Derby.

Ocho Ocho Ocho will be making his turf debut in the Penn Mile, but Cassidy is confident he will like the surface. Cassidy’s best horses have included the Grade 1 turf winners Tom’s Tribute, Evening Jewel, The Usual Q. T., and Ticker Tape, plus the Grade 2 winners Diamond Diva and Katdogawn.

“I’ve never had him on turf, but I know he’s going to like it,” Cassidy said by phone. “I can tell from the look of him he’s that type of horse. I think he’ll like firm turf.”

Ocho Ocho Ocho ran sneaky-good for the first mile of the Kentucky Derby before tiring. He saved ground in eighth position after breaking from post 1 under jockey Elvis Trujillo, and then made a nice move toward the leaders on the far turn.

“I told my man before the race that I think he’s best at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, and that’s the way he ran,” Cassidy said. “He made a move on the turn and I started to get excited, but then it was just too far for him. Elvis gave him a terrific ride.”

Ocho Ocho Ocho has worked twice since the Derby and Cassidy said, “He’s quite full of himself.”

Papacoolpapacool is 3 for 3 since being transferred to trainer Phil D’Amato early this year. He won an allowance in February, the Pasadena Stakes in March, and the 1 1/8-mile La Puente Stakes in April. All of those races were over turf at Santa Anita.

If Papacoolpapacool runs well in the Penn Mile, D’Amato said he would consider the $1.25 million Belmont Derby at 1 1/4 miles on grass July 4 as a possible next start.

“I’m sending him back for this race to see how he stacks up with the East Coast 3-year-olds,” D’Amato said. “If he does well we would possibly take a look at the Belmont Derby and then bring him back for the Del Mar Derby.”

◗ Entries for the Penn Mile will be taken Wednesday. On Tuesday, trainer Jamie Ness said Woodwin W, who is undefeated in four starts, was probable for the Penn Mile. Alan Goldberg said he was planning to run Force the Pass.

Woodwin W and Force the Pass finished one-two in the one-mile James Murphy Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard.