11/19/2012 1:45PM

Penn National: Fabulous Strike draws outstanding field

Tom Keyser
Poseidon's Warrior (above), Ben's Cat, and Il Vilano are entered in Wednesday's Fabulous Strike.

A millionaire sprinter who has raced exclusively on turf this season, a Grade 1 winner who disliked the sandy surface at Santa Anita when shipped west for the Breeders’ Cup, and a 3-year-old who barely missed winning a $350,000 stakes while facing older horses for the first time are part of an intriguing lineup for Penn National’s pre-Thanksgiving feature on Wednesday night.

The $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap at six furlongs, the last and richest of four stakes on a holiday eve card, attracted Ben’s Cat, Poseidon’s Warrior, and Il Villano.

An all-stakes pick four, which opens the program at 6 p.m. Eastern, begins with the $75,000 Blue Mountain and is followed by the $100,000 Swatara, the $100,000 Daylily, and the Fabulous Strike.

[PENN NATIONAL: Get PPs, watch pick four preview video]

The fourth race, rechristened the Fabulous Strike in honor of one of the best horses ever to come out of the central Pennsylvania track, drew a field of eight, led by the Maryland-based millionaire Ben’s Cat and Poseidon’s Warrior, the 36-1 upset winner of the Alfred Vanderbilt at Saratoga in early August.

Ben’s Cat will be returning to the main track for the first time since he finished third, beaten a neck, a year ago when the Fabulous Strike was known as the Six Bits Handicap. Although the 6-year-old Ben’s Cat has earned $1.02 million of his $1.24 million bankroll on grass, he is 7 for 11 on dirt.

“I know he will catch some tough horses, and he’s more of a turf horse, but this is a nice purse to take a shot at,” said owner-trainer King Leatherbury. “He is doing fine coming into the race, and he is always in good shape. It’s my best spot to run since I don’t have any more turf.”

The 4-year-old Poseidon’s Warrior was expected to get some time off after finishing last of 14 earlier this month in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. But his behavior since returning to his home base at Parx caused trainer Butch Reid to alter his plans.

“He wasn’t the same horse in California, maybe due to the warm climate, but since getting back to the East Coast he has been training spectacularly,” Reid said. “He made the decision for us, and we are looking forward to getting his confidence back up.”

Poseidon’s Warrior is cross-entered in Thursday’s Fall Highweight at Aqueduct, a Grade 3 race worth $150,000.

Il Villano, whose previous best race came in May when he won the Chick Lang at Pimlico, ran the fastest race of his career when he earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for finishing a nose behind Action Andy in the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park in late October.

“I was happy the owners decided to go to Penn National,” said trainer Susan Crowell. “He is doing great after his last race and is at the top of the game. He is a phenomenal and consistent horse.”

The live longshot in the field may be Immortal Eyes, who is 10-1 on the track’s morning line. Immortal Eyes was second by a neck in last year’s Two Bits and recovered from a stumbling start in the De Francis Dash to finish third of 11, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths.

“I was on the best horse,” said jockey Travis Dunkelberger. “He fell on his head leaving the gate, which cost him 10 lengths at the start, then got beat by two lengths at the finish.”