An expanded 33-event stakes schedule headed by the inaugural $125,000 “Smarty Jones Classic” at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack will be offered this year by the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.
The PHBA, which administers the Pennsylvania-bred program for Thoroughbreds in the Keystone State, recently announced a stakes schedule worth $2.35 million. The stakes will be held at Philly Park, Penn National Race Course, and Presque Isle Downs, which is scheduled to open Sept. 1 near Erie.
The Smarty Jones Classic, named in honor of the Pennsylvania-bred colt that won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and just fell short of a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in 2004, heads the July 28 “Pennsylvania’s Day at the Races” at Philly Park. The PHBA has scheduled eight state-bred stakes that afternoon for 3-year-olds and up on the dirt and turf.
Another state-bred stakes day is set for Sept. 29 at Presque Isle. Six $90,000 events for 3-year-olds and 3-year-olds and up will be offered at the track owned and operated by MTR Gaming.
There are four state-bred stakes for 2-year-olds on the calendar. The first, the High Yield Stakes for 2-year-old males, is scheduled for Sept. 29 at Philly Park. The $75,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes, which was won by Smarty Jones and last year by current Triple Crown contender Hard Spun, is slated for Nov. 24 at Philly Park.
Penn National, whose grandstand/clubhouse is being rebuilt this year, was awarded five Pennsylvania-bred stakes, including the Oct. 18 Blue Mountain Juvenile Stakes.
Many of the PHBA stakes are named after Pennsylvania-breds; one of the new ones, the Willy Wank Stakes, honors the popular horse that won nine stakes at Keystone Race Track (now Philly Park) from 1981-84. The Willy Wank will be run, however, at Presque Isle.
The expanded stakes slate was made possible by slot machines that began operating at Philly Park late last year and Presque Isle in late February. Purses and breed development receive 12% of gross slots revenue and up to 6% more from non-track slots casinos that have yet to be built.