12/28/2005 12:00AM

Penn National track report


R. Earl, who didn't begin his racing career until May of his 6-year-old season and less than four months later became a stakes winner, was a unanimous choice for horse of the year at Penn National Race Course.

Trained by Tim Shea for owner-breeder Cleon Cassel, R. Earl compiled a local record of 4 wins from 7 starts with earnings of $61,175.

He received all five first-place ballots submitted by representatives of local media, the track's racing and publicity departments, Equibase, and the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

R. Earl defeated maidens for a $25,000 claiming tag in his third lifetime start in early June. After a loss over soft turf a month later, R. Earl reeled off three consecutive victories, highlighted by a neck win in the Capital City Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf race.

The 11-year-old Tonto Gusto, who closed out his season with four consecutive sprint victories in the starter allowance ranks, received all five second-place votes.

Third place in the voting went to Evening Clinic, a 6-year-old who won four long-distance starter allowance races at Penn National between May and September.