08/01/2012 1:51PM

Penn National: Clement, Tony Dutrow have strong contenders in stakes


Two prominent East Coast trainers will send out serious contenders in a pair of $75,000 turf stakes restricted to Pennsylvania-breds on Friday night’s program.

Madrilena, a 5-year-old mare based at Parx with trainer Tony Dutrow, will seek her fourth straight victory in the five-furlong Russian Rhythm for statebred fillies and mares (race 3). One race later, the Christophe Clement-trained 4-year-old Philly Ace, who opened his 2012 campaign with two consecutive narrow victories against open company, seeks his first stakes win in the 1 1/16-mile Robellino.

In five starts since coming to Dutrow’s barn last season, Madrilena has not been worse than third. She closed her 2011 season by winning a first-level allowance on the main track at Parx. In her first two starts this year, Madrilena cruised by 6 1/4 lengths in an off-the-turf allowance sprint at Monmouth Park and held on by a nose sprinting five furlongs on Monmouth’s grass course.

Over the past two seasons, Dutrow is 7 for 15 (47 percent) at Penn National, including 3 for 7 in stakes.

Madrilena, the 7-2 second choice on the track’s morning line, will face the top three finishers from last year’s Russian Rhythm – You Need Me, Look At Me Dance, and Amnesian – who were separated by less than a length. All three mares show sharp current form.

You Need Me, the 5-2 program choice, comes in following back-to-back wins sprinting on Tapeta and turf. Look At Me Dance, runner-up by a neck to You Need Me in this race last year, is 0 for 5 this season, but just missed by a neck last time out in a prep over the local course. The 7-year-old Amnesian, third but beaten only three-quarters of a length in the 2011 Russian Rhythm, finished a half-length behind the winner as the 2-1 favorite locally on July 11.

Philly Ace has been made the 3-1 favorite in the Robellino on the basis of his back-to-back wins in high-priced optional claimers at Monmouth and Belmont in May and June. Clement is 0 for 2 at Penn National the past five years, including a seventh by Varsity in last weekend’s Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup. On the plus side, Clement is 6 for 22 (36 percent) with turf runners making their first start following a break of 31 to 60 days in a non-graded stakes.

Roadhog and Saco River, second and third in last year’s Robellino, may be Philly Ace’s chief competition. Roadhog makes the third start of his current form cycle. He produced a peak effort the last two times he was in that situation. Saco River comes back six days after finishing seventh of nine going 1 1/2 miles in the East Hanover. He came back on similar short rest last summer to finish second .