11/23/2013 2:28PM

Penn National: Ben's Cat seeks Fabulous Strike repeat in main-track return

Tom Keyser
Ben's Cat, who has not raced on dirt since winning last year's Fabulous Strike Handicap, will try for a repeat in that $250,000 race Wednesday.

Penn National racing officials probably had their fingers crossed, hoping their quartet of Thanksgiving Eve stakes, topped by the $250,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap for sprinters, would lure at least one horse who competed in the Breeders’ Cup earlier this month.

The list of nominees to the Fabulous Strike included three runners exiting the BC Sprint – winner Secret Circle, third-place Gentlemen’s Bet, and also-ran Private Zone, the winner of the Grade 1 Vosburgh – along with Tightend Touchdown, who outran his 18-1 odds to get second in the BC Turf Sprint.

In the end, Penn National did succeed in getting a horse who most recently ran in the Breeders’ Cup, but not for the Fabulous Strike, the richest of four stakes on a Wednesday card that begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. Suns Out Guns Out, a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, is among 10 horses entered in the $150,000 Swatara, one of three supporting stakes on a program that was finalized Saturday. The 10-race card kicks off with an all-stakes pick four, ending with the Fabulous Strike.

The six-furlong Fabulous Strike attracted the smallest field of the four stakes, with a lineup of seven, led by defending champion Ben’s Cat. The Maryland-based millionaire will be making his first start on dirt since winning the inaugural Fabulous Strike a year ago.

The cast for the Fabulous Strike also includes Ribo Bobo, a 5-year-old gelding who is riding a nine-race winning streak; the 3-year-old City of Weston, who upset the Grade 3 Gallant Bob at Parx in September, and Good Morning Diva, third in the Grade 3 Ack Ack two starts ago.

The talent level came up strongest in the Swatara, a 1 1/16-mile race that goes as race 3. In addition to Suns Out Guns Out, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by London Bridge in the 1 3/4-mile BC Marathon, the lineup features Edge of Reality, the winner of the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx; Saratoga Snacks, the winner of the Empire Classic for New York-breds last time out; Taptowne, the runner-up in a trio of Grade 2 and Grade 3 stakes earlier this season; and Norman Asbjornson, second in Penn National’s Mountainview Handicap in June.

Ten fillies and mares entered the $150,000, six-furlong Lady in Waiting, including Sweet Cassiopeia, second in the Open Mind at Churchill Downs in September; and Nikkis Smartypants, the winner of the Grade 3 Royal North on turf at Woodbine.

The Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies drew eight Pennsylvania-bred 2-year-old fillies, topped by Gracer, third in the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont in September, and Total Talent, a Wesley Ward-trained filly who has won two in a row running for a claiming tag at Churchill Downs.