Deep Field Assembles for the Penn Mile

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

On Saturday, Penn National will host an exciting day of racing led by four stakes races, including the $500,000 Penn Mile (gr. III). I'll be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for the Penn Mile, a one-mile turf race for three-year-olds that has drawn strong fields of talented horses since its inauguration in 2013. By filling a gap in the schedule for three-year-olds on turf, the Penn Mile has attracted horses like Bobby's Kitten, Force the Pass, and Are You Kidding Me, and the 2016 renewal has the potential to be the best yet. 

Leading the field is Catch a Glimpse, a filly that is unbeaten on turf and a winner of five straight graded stakes races, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. I). Trained by Mark Casse, the daughter of City Zip is 3-for-3 this year, with her most recent win being a determined triumph by three-quarters of a length in the Edgewood Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. A mile seems to be perfect fit for her in terms of distance, and her excellent tactical speed allows her to work out a great trip every time.

That said, Catch a Glimpse has lost ground in the stretch of her last two races, and while that may be partly the result of losing focus once she takes a clear lead, her closing fractions have not been all that remarkable. I also wonder if she might be a bit better with give in the ground; to me, her two most impressive performances came over a "good" turf course in the Natalma Stakes (gr. II) and a "yielding" course in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Since Catch a Glimpse is 2-1 on the morning line and could start as the favorite, I think it's worth taking a shot against her with a longer-price runner, and one that jumps out at me is her stablemate Airoforce. After a terrific season in 2015 that saw him win three of his four starts and finish second by a neck in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I), Airoforce has not seen the same success this year and has failed to crack the trifecta in his last three starts. However, two of those races were on dirt and synthetic tracks-he seems to be clearly better on turf-and when he returned to his preferred surface in the American Turf Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, he turned in a much-improved performance. After showing uncharacteristic early speed to set a fast pace, Airoforce tired a bit in the final two furlongs but fought on well to finish fourth, beaten just 2 ¾ lengths despite steadying slightly in the homestretch.

In the Penn Mile, Airoforce is expected to return to his late-running style, and he could get a great pace setup if the speedy colts Giant Run and Silent Waters keep Catch a Glimpse honest on the lead. After being favored in all three starts this year, Airoforce is the 7-2 third choice on the Penn Mile morning line, and I think that is value on a talented colt.

But Beach Patrol also warrants a lot of respect and might be an even better choice for the top spot. He got a good pace setup when second by a head in the American Turf Stakes, but his combination of tactical speed (he won an allowance race at Santa Anita in gate-to-wire fashion) and ability to rate makes him a major contender regardless of pace scenario.  He should be a bit more forwardly placed than Airoforce and could get first run at Catch a Glimpse turning for home, and given how well he finished in the American Turf Stakes-he probably would have won if not for ground loss-I think Saturday is the day that he picks up his first graded stakes win.

It should also be noted that Beach Patrol will be racing for new connections in the Penn Mile, having been sold after the American Turf Stakes and transferred to the barn of Chad Brown. Joel Rosario will be in the saddle on Saturday, marking the sixth different jockey to ride Beach Patrol in his six races.

Another contender for the exotics is Oscar Nominated, winner of the Black Gold Stakes and Spiral Stakes (gr. III) before finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). He's quietly compiled a solid record on turf and possesses nice acceleration and a solid finishing kick, although he's yet to face top company on grass and my gut feeling is that he won't be able to out-kick Beach Patrol and Airoforce when the real running begins.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Penn Mile?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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