05/28/2015 11:20AM

Penn Mile highlights stakes-filled card

Benoit & Associates
Papacoolpapacool's burst of speed makes him a top contender in the Penn Mile.

There are no warm-up races on the biggest card of the Penn National Race Course season Saturday. The program begins at 6 p.m. Eastern with four open stakes, followed by a Pennsylvania-bred stakes, and then concludes with a mix of allowance and maiden races.

The open stakes are linked by a 50-cent pick four that concludes with the track’s signature race, the $500,000 Penn Mile, which has been bumped up to a Grade 3 for its third running. The undercard stakes are the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap on the main track and three turf stakes, the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, the $150,000 Penn Oaks, and the restricted, $75,000 Lyphard.

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

The stakes are front-loaded because Penn National’s turf course is not lighted. The complete card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

The Penn Mile, a turf race for 3-year-olds, has drawn a deep field of 11, with favoritism going to either two-time Santa Anita stakes winner Papacoolpapacool; Night Prowler, who has won Keeneland and Gulfstream Park stakes; or Ocho Ocho Ocho, who is coming off a better-than-it-looked effort in the Kentucky Derby. That still leaves two undefeated runners, Granny’s Kitten and Woodwin W, and the promising Force the Pass, all of whom are contenders.


Papacoolpapacool is 3 for 3 since being transferred to trainer Phil D’Amato, a former longtime assistant to the late Mike Mitchell. In his last two starts, Papacoolpapacool has rallied from several lengths back to win the 1 1/8-mile La Puente and the one-mile Pasadena stakes.

“He a versatile horse,” D’Amato said. “He has tactical speed and an explosive burst. I don’t think there’s really a bad scenario for him. If they go slow, he’ll be close early. If they go quicker, he can settle farther back.”

:: DRF Live: Watch live handicapping analysis of Saturday’s biggest races, starting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern

If Papacoolpapacool performs well Saturday, D’Amato said he will be considered for the $1.25 million Belmont Derby at 1 1/4 miles on July 4.

Key contenders

Papacoolpapacool (Last 3 Beyers: 87-87-83)

◗ He has made six of his seven grass starts at a mile and has a 3-1-1 record at the distance.

◗ This will be D’Amato’s first start as a trainer outside of California. He is 100 for 472 in his career, a winning average of 21 percent. He is 34 for 121 this year (28 percent).

Night Prowler (Last 3 Beyers: 86-74-80)

◗ Two-time Grade 3-winning son of Giant’s Causeway has won on firm and soft turf.

◗ Trained by Chad Brown, he can be expected to settle early under Javier Castellano and be running late.

Ocho Ocho Ocho (Last 3 Beyers: 82-86-76)

◗ This will be his turf debut, but trainer Jim Cassidy is confident that he will like the footing. Cassidy has a knack with turf runners and has trained Grade 1 winners Tom’s Tribute, Evening Jewel, The Usual Q.T., and Ticker Tape.

◗ Ocho Ocho Ocho made a nice move toward the leaders on the far turn of the Kentucky Derby last out before tiring. He fits better at a mile.

Granny’s Kitten (Beyers: 82-79)

◗ Talented son of Kitten’s Joy is 2 for 2, having won a Belmont turf sprint last July and a recent 1 1/8-mile Churchill turf allowance for trainer Mike Maker. He will face more-seasoned opponents here.

Force the Pass (Last 3 Beyers: 82-83-81)

◗ He was buried down along the inside when second in the James Murphy Stakes at Pimlico on May 16, and Joel Rosario had to check him briefly entering the stretch. He is better drawn Saturday in post 8.

◗ Force the Pass is out of two-time graded stakes winner Social Queen, who, like Force the Pass, was trained by Alan Goldberg and owned by Richard Santulli.

“His mother had a lot of class, and so does he,” Goldberg said. “He kind of does everything right, and we’ve thought highly of him since he was a 2-year-old.”

Woodwin W (Last 3 Beyers: 85-82-76)

◗ A $12,500 OBS auction buy last October, he is 4 for 4 with $114,000 in earnings for trainer Jamie Ness. He should be forwardly placed throughout.