Saturday Race Previews

Penn National, Races 1-4, Early Pick 4, First Post 6:00 pm ET

This evening’s card at Penn National is the richest in the track’s history, and it opens with an All-Stakes Pick Four that concludes with the inaugural running of the $500,000 Penn Mile.

In Race #1, Dorothy’s Aurora has a clear-cut pace advantage to go with her rail post position. With a clean start, she is almost certain to find herself on an uncontested early lead, enjoying the best type of trip in American dirt racing.


Dorothy’s Aurora, surprisingly enough, has made the early lead only twice in her entire career. The first time, she won wire-to-wire by almost four lengths at 4/1. The second time, she won wire-to-wire by three and one half lengths at odds of 3/1. Her trainer, Tim Kreiser, has a dazzling Trainer Rating of 94 at Penn National and it is also worth noting that he has saddled nine winners from just 20 runners over the past four weeks.

pf-bs2In Race #2, the venerable Ben’s Cat can never be thrown out, since he’s won 21 of 31 career starts and is one of very few horses in American racing history to bank over $1 million in earnings in turf sprint races at distances of six furlongs or less. However, in this spot, he might be as vulnerable as he is venerable. Ben’s Cat is hung out in post position number 11 and his two prior races over this course and distance have seen him produce below-par performances, earning speed figures of just 85 and 98.

Tightend Touchdown comes into this race on the back of a dazzling 112 speed figure. The pace projector indicates he should make the early lead with a clean break, and that’s been a great thing for him in the past. Throughout his career, Tightend Touchdown has made the lead after a quarter mile seven different times, winning six and finishing second by a neck with a career-best 113 speed figure on his only loss.

In Race #3, the five major contenders are Rattlesnake Bridge, Macho Macho, Adirondack King, Easter Gift, and Pants on Fire. Instead of trying to split hairs in a race that likely will be determined by tactics and trip, the appropriate strategy would be to cast a wide net and use all five horses in the pick four sequence.

Race #4 is the $500,000 Penn Mile and the horse to beat is probably Rydilluc. In the Blue Grass Stakes, the big field and wide post position with a short run to the first turn forced Edger Prado to use Rydilluc’s early speed, and the nine furlong distance ultimately proved too far to see out because of it. Still, Rydilluc ran an excellent race and earned a career-best 106 speed figure. Now he cuts back to his best distance of a mile and returns to a turf surface where he has a perfect record, winning all three starts with ease.

Noble Tune, Jack Milton and Charming Kitten are all very nice horses, and they should have a stranglehold on the minor awards, but the edge goes to Rydilluc.

Pick Four strategy:
Leg #1: Dorothy’s Aurora
Leg #2: Tightend Touchdown, Ben’s Cat, and Bridgetown
Leg #3: Rattlesnake Bridge, Macho Macho, Adirondack King, Easter Gift, and Pants on Fire
Leg #4: Rydilluc

Golden Gate, Race 8, 7:23 pm ET
The Campanile, One Mile, Turf, Three-Year-Old Fillies Bred or Sired in California

The speed figures show that two fillies, namely Unusual Way and Qiaona, stand above the rest in the Campanile: Both Unusual Way and Qiaona contested the Melair at Betfair Hollywood Park, over a mile and one sixteenth on the cushion track, and were separated by only half a length, earning figures of 94 and 95 respectively, numbers that stand out in this field.

Unusual Way is the morning line favorite at 7-5. She makes her turf debut today, and given that she is sired by the much-ballyhooed California turf sire Unusual Heat, will be ridden by the ever-popular jockey Russell Baze, and is trained by the highly competent trainer Jeff Bonde (see trainer rating in box above her past performances), she seems certain to go to post at a short price. A victory from Unusual Way wouldn’t be a surprise and her winning chances, which already look strong, would increase further if she can relax, as she was fighting her rider something awful in the first part of the Melair.


Although she lacks Unusual Way’s turf breeding, Qiaona has something Unusual Way lacks: a race on turf. For good measure, Qiaona won her only turf start despite losing significant amounts of ground on the turns. While that win earned a speed figure of only 75, that number was not at all out of place during that period of her development. It might also be worth noting that she raced closer to the pace in that lone turf race than is her custom. Qiaona is the selection at morning line odds or above.

Those in the market for a wild bomb might want to give some consideration to the maiden Miz Strawberry Dee, who goes on lasix following her debut in a synthetic sprint and has breeding that doesn’t rule out a significant move-up on turf.

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