02/01/2012 12:57PM

Penn National announces $1.97 million stakes schedule

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A new $175,000 handicap for older horses and the rechristening of a $200,000 sprint in honor of locally based star Fabulous Strike highlight the 2012 stakes schedule released this week by Penn National Race Course.

The central Pennsylvania track will offer the same collective stakes purse package of $1.97 million as last year, but will run 19 stakes rather than the 21 presented in 2011. Gone are two races restricted to Pennsylvania-breds, the Docent and the Nepal, along with the Le Bagoter for 3-year-old sprinters.

In their place, Penn National will present the $175,000 Mountainview Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race that is part of the track’s biggest night of the season on July 28. That evening’s card will feature a stakes tripleheader, topped by the 40th running of the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup.

Penn National has renamed its other $200,000 stakes, formerly the Two Bits during its inaugural running last fall, as the Fabulous Strike Handicap on Thanksgiving Eve.

“Fabulous Strike was the most popular locally grown stakes star in track history,” said Mark Loewe, Penn National’s vice president of racing. “He won the first and last races of his career at home, along with stakes races, and we are honored to name the race after a horse generally regarded as one of America’s fastest sprinters in recent years.”

Three other stakes – the Changing Times, Day Lily, and Swatara – received $25,000 purse boosts to $100,000, giving the track a total of 11 races worth at least $100,000.