05/30/2013 4:08PM

Penn Mile lures Noble Tune, Rydilluc from New York

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Tom Keyser
Rydilluc brings a 3-for-3 grass record into the Penn Mile.

The Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, a turf sprint, used to be the biggest race of the season at Penn National. Now, it’s only a supporting undercard feature for the $500,000 Penn Mile, a new turf race for 3-year-olds that apparently filled an empty niche on the East Coast stakes calendar, attracting the four best sophomore grass horses in New York.

The New York quartet comprises Noble Tune, Rydilluc, Jack Milton, and Charming Kitten, who have a combined record of 11-4-1 from 16 starts on grass. All are turf stakes winners and their convergence should make for very interesting viewing – and wagering.

The Penn Mile anchors a 10-race, seven-stakes card (first post 6 p.m. Eastern) which includes the $150,000 Governor’s Cup and the $250,000 Mountainview. The Governor’s Cup, carded as race 2, lured a strong group headed by Ben’s Cat, Chamberlain Bridge, and Bridgetown. The best horses in the Mountainview, at nine furlongs on dirt, are Rattlesnake Bridge, Macho Macho, Easter Gift, Pants On Fire, and Norman Asbjornson.

[PENN MILE: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

Noble Tune, demonstrating professionalism and talent from the start, has been favored in all five of his races, and his only loss was a second of 14 behind Irish shipper George Vancouver in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Noble Tune is 2 for 2 this year and was flattered when the horse be beat May 3 in the American Turf, Admiral Kitten, finished second after a very wide trip in the Arlington Classic. Post  1 should produce a ground-saving trip under Javier Castellano, and Noble Tune always comes with a run. Yet Noble Tune might not even be favored Saturday – not with Rydilluc in the Penn Mile. Rydilluc is 3 for 3 on grass, and those wins have come by more than 13 lengths combined. In his stakes debut Rydilluc beat Penn Mile rival Charming Kitten by more than three lengths in the Grade 3 Palm Beach.

“From day one I thought he was a Derby horse,” said Contessa, who is winning at only a 2-percent clip with his last 50-plus stakes starters. “When I ran him first time out I thought he’d win by a pole. I was never so disappointed.”

Rydilluc, debuting on dirt, finished fifth by more than 22 lengths in his debut, a defeat Contessa attributes to studdish pre-race behavior.

“He has settled down somewhat, but he’s still got that in him,” Contessa said. “It’s okay, because he does it and he wins.”

Rydilluc’s connections still had Kentucky Derby designs even after the colt finished fourth in the Blue Grass, but a bruised hoof in late April ended lingering Derby dreams. The foot issue subsided within a week, according to Contessa.

“We’re coming up to this race in very fine fettle,” he said.

Jack Milton, winner of the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland in his stakes debut and third start, had a minor issue at about the same time, suffering a muscle pull, trainer Todd Pletcher said, that cost him a start in the American Turf. Jack Milton quickly recovered and has worked four times in the last month.

“He’s really impressed us since the beginning,” Pletcher said. “He’s not real big, but he’s very well made and well balanced.”

John Velazquez, who has the mount again Saturday, told Pletcher that Jack Milton idled after making the lead before the eighth pole in the Transylvania. He still held on to beat Up With the Birds, who easily won the Marine Stakes last weekend at Woodbine.

Pletcher’s other Penn Mile runner, Charming Kitten, made his dirt debut in the Kentucky Derby, finishing ninth. He is more accomplished on synthetics and turf, though he was no match for Rydilluc in the Palm Beach.

“Any time a horse of Rydilluc’s quality can get loose on lead, they’re dangerous, and we’re hoping there’s someone to keep him honest,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher’s hope might be realized with stretchout sprinter Pitch N Roll and speedy Yougotthatgoinforu in the Penn Mile. But both are drawn inside Rydilluc, who might track the early leaders and should take the lead at some point.

Whether he can hold onto it over the likes of Noble Tune and Jack Milton is the $500,000 question Saturday night at Penn.