A stellar night of stakes racing is on tap for Thanksgiving Eve Wednesday at
Penn National Race Course, with the first four races on the card all stakes.
Headlining the evening's action is the inaugural running of the $200,000
Fabulous Strike Handicap for three-year-olds and up going six furlongs,
supported by the $100,000
for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000
for fillies and mares going six furlongs, and the $75,000
Mountain for Pennsylvania-bred two-year-old fillies going six furlongs.
First post is 6 p.m. (EST).
Named after one of the most accomplished horses to run at Penn National, the Fabulous Strike for sprinters boasts a deep field highlighted by the 5-2 morning line favorite Poseidon's Warrior. Winner of the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt in August at Saratoga Race Course, Poseidon's Warrior is coming off a dull effort in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 3 at Santa Anita, reporting home last."We initially weren't thinking about this race for him since the timing is so close to the Breeders' Cup," trainer Robert "Butch" Reid Jr. said. "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. He made the decision for us, and we are looking forward to getting his confidence back up."
Two-for-two over this track, Poseidon's Warrior rolled to a 3 1/2-length decision in the Le Bagoter Stakes on last year's Thanksgiving Eve program.
Poseidon's Warrior was cross-entered to Thursday's Grade 3, $150,000 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, where he would be saddled with the top weight of 135 pounds. He rates as the 122-pound highweight in the Fabulous Strike.
Second choice on the Fabulous Strike morning line is multiple Grade 3 winner Ben's Cat, 3-1 for legendary trainer King Leatherbury. While 11 of the 13 stakes wins for the six-year-old gelding have come on the grass, he has also won two stakes on the dirt, and was third in a three-way photo here a year ago when this race was called the Six Bits. Ben's Cat comes into the Fabulous Strike in good form, with two stakes wins, including the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx, in his most recent three starts.
"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 Leatherbury, who has won more than 6,300 races during his career as a trainer. "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."
A three-year-old upstart looking to upset his elders in the Fabulous Strike is Il Villano, the 7-2 third choice on the morning line for trainer Susan Crowell. The colt has been a model of consistency this year, with a stakes win on the Preakness undercard and placings in two Grade 2 events -- the Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park and the Woody Stephens at Belmont Park -- in addition to a second-place effort in the Red Legend on June 30 at Charles Town. He is coming off a nose defeat while taking on older horses for the first time in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash on October 27 at Laurel Park.
"I was happy the owners decided to go to Penn National," Crowell said. "He is doing great after his last race and is at the top of the game. He is a phenomenal and consistent horse."
Immortal Eyes (10-1), a near-miss second in last year's Six Bits, exits a better-than-appears third in the De Francis Dash.
Also entered in the Fabulous Strike, which is scheduled as the 4TH with a 7:24 post time, are Golddigger's Boy (9-2), Sloane Ranger (8-1), Mega Rush (15-1) and the coupled entry of Philly Bound (15-1) and Braulio (15-1).
The Swatara features a contentious field headlined by Todd Pletcher's graded
stakes-winning duo of San Pablo (5-2) and Rule (3-1). The former won this year's
Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin in August at Monmouth while the latter was victorious
in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup in July.
"San Pablo is training really well," Pletcher said. "He didn't fire his best shot in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (finishing ninth), but he was probably closer to the pace that day than he needed to be with those fractions. He has had time to adjust and can hopefully get back to his best form. He's been a very consistent performer and we expect a big effort."
Pletcher added that Rule will be entered into a race at another track next week and will only contest the Swatara if that race doesn't end up going.
Another graded winner set to contest the Swatara is Win Willy (7-2) for trainer McLean Robertson, who took last year's Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and comes into the Thanksgiving Eve race off a 4 3/4-length triumph in a restricted stakes on October 20 at Delaware Park.
Norman Asbjornson (12-1), who was runner-up in the 2011 Swatara, has not raced since his second-place effort in the May 26 Skip Away at Monmouth.
Also entered for the Swatara, which is scheduled as the 2ND race with a 6:28 post, are Rush Now (5-1), Small Town Talk (8-1), Isn't He Perfect (8-1) and Meistersinger (20-1).
The Daylily is highlighted by even-money favorite Nicole H, who has won three stakes races this year and reported home second in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder in July. The five-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley is coming off a 1 1/4-length score in the Endine on October 13 at Delaware Park.
"She is on her game and everything points to a good performance from her," trainer Mike Hushion said. "She should run for good money and $100,000 is a nice purse."
Nicole H opted for the Daylily rather than Tuesday's $75,000 Cornucopia at Parx.
The second-place finisher from the Endine, Winning Image, is the 3-1 second choice on the Daylily morning line. But the Michael Aro trainee is cross-entered to the Cornucopia, and she has already won two stakes this season at Parx.
Withgreatpleasure (6-1) and Ms. Cruisen' (10-1) are others engaged in both the Cornucopia and the Daylily.
Daylily contender Prize Winner (15-1) is unbeaten from two starts at Penn, including a smart entry-level allowance score at this six-furlong distance back in March. Also entered for the Daylily, which is scheduled as the 3RD race with a 6:56 post, are Bryan's Jewel (6-1) and Spring Jump (15-1).
The Blue Mountain is scheduled as the first race of the evening at 6 p.m. The Reid-trained Cittadina (7-2) and Classy Coco (4-1) for trainer Bernard Houghton, finished one-two, respectively, in an allowance race at Parx on October 28 and are the top two choices on the Blue Mountain morning line. Classy Coco is the lone stakes winner in the field, having annexed the Maryland Million Lassie at Laurel Park in early October.
The other allowance winner in the Blue Mountain is Carry the Torch, listed at 5-1 on the morning line and also trained by Houghton. She is coming off a second-place finish in the Xtra Heat Stakes on October 27 at Delaware Park.
Steve Klesaris will send out debut maiden winners Kelwynne (6-1) and Nathan's Mom Becky (12-1).
Also entered for the Blue Mountain are Foxy Sara (6-1), Aunt Bobby (8-1), Humble Street (12-1), Ima Mitey Mouse (15-1), Bo Bull (15-1), and Nellie Cashman (20-1).
The Fabulous Strike, Swatara, Daylily and Blue Mountain comprise an Early All-Stakes Pick 4.