Eight sophomore turf contenders will line up June 1 for the inaugural edition of the $500,000 Penn Mile Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, including grade II winner Noble Tune, grade III winners Rydilluc and Jack Milton, and stakes winner Charming Kitten, who comes off a ninth in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The one-mile turf event is listed as race four on a 10-race evening card, with an approximate post time of 7:26 p.m. EDT, and is the final leg of an All Stakes Early Pick 4 that also features the $250,000 Mountainview Handicap and the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup.
Trainer Chad Brown sends Noble Tune, favored at 2-1 on the morning line, off a professional score in the May 3 American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs. Martin K. Schwartz's dark bay son of Unbridled's Song earned victory by 1 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile contest over 10 others with a three-wide move after racing fourth through the early going. Regular rider Javier Castellano gets the mount from the inside. He has lost just once in five lifetime starts, a second place finish 1 1/4 lengths behind George Vancouver in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT).
"He is training very well and I am extremely happy with how he is coming into the race," said Brown. "Going into the American Turf, he was training better than I had ever seen him and I expected a big effort. I am looking forward to Saturday and it should be a great race."
The 5-2 second choice is Rydilluc, who races for a partnership group headed by Leonard Green. The Medaglia d'Oro colt is undefeated in three turf starts for trainer Gary Contessa, including an easy 3 1/2-length score in the March 3 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park. Assigned post 7 with Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Rydilluc comes off a fourth place finish in the April 13 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. IT) on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland.
"He certainly is right up there with the best horses that I have ever had," Contessa said. "He is the best moving horse that I have ever trained and he takes your breath away when he goes past you. Had he run one place better in the Blue Grass, we would have run him in the Derby. Edgar Prado has never really asked him for his best on the turf yet, and I am looking forward to seeing how he fares against the best turf horses in the country."
Trainer Todd Pletcher has the duo of Gary Barber's Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Jack Milton and Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kittens Joy Stakes victor Charming Kitten.
Jack Milton, 3-1 on the morning line, will leave post 6 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard. The War Front colt was recently seen winning the April 5 Transylvania by a neck at Keeneland. After taking his debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 12 in powerful fashion, he ran second in a subsequent allowance at the South Florida oval, but that did not dissuade Pletcher from going into the Transylvania on just two career starts.
"We were very high on him before his first race and even more so afterwards," Pletcher said. "In his second race we were a little disappointed, but we felt his loss was because he didn't handle the surface that day. We were very impressed by his victory in the Transylvania and originally thought about the American Turf, but he acted like he needed some time. We know he likes running fresh so we focused on the Penn Mile. He is training great coming into the race."
Charming Kitten, 4-1, made his dirt debut in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Kitten's Joy ran third in the Blue Grass one start prior, and was second to Rydilluc in the Palm Beach after taking the Kitten's Joy by a length going 1 1/16 miles at the start of the year.
"We've always felt like Charming Kitten's favored surface was the turf," said Pletcher. "He is versatile and handles multiple surfaces. We took a shot in the Derby and we thought he ran a big race there for his first dirt effort; he showed some guts and determination. Now it's back to his preferred surface."
Charming Kitten drew the 8 hole under jockey Joel Rosario.
All of the aforementioned contenders carry 122 pounds, while the remaining four entrants are weighted at 116.
Rounding out the first ever Penn Mile field are grade II-placed Are You Kidding Me for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield and owners Ronald K. Kirk, John C. Bates, and Michael Riord; the Elkstone group's local stakes winner Pitch N Roll for trainer Ron Potts; Taylor Rice's Triple Cross for trainer Adam Rice; and Touchdown Stable's local allowance winner Yougotthatgoinforu for trainer Michael Rogers.
$500,000 Penn Mile Stakes (Race 4, approximate post 7:26 p.m. EDT), 3YOs, one mile (turf)