A Thread of Blue saw his win streak halted on Kentucky Derby Day, but will attempt to start a new one Saturday in the $500,000 Penn Mile (G2) at Penn National.
Victorious in three straight at Gulfstream Park over the winter, including the Palm Beach (G3), the speedy colt was caught late by Digital Age in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs last time after leading most of the way.
“He shows a lot of speed, but in the Palm Beach he laid off the pace, and that was nice,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
Real News, a close second in the $100,000 James W. Murphy at Pimlico two weeks ago, has the speed to keep the likely favorite honest. The Steve Asmussen-trained Fluminense, who breaks outside in the field of nine, also has early foot.
Among those hoping for a strong early tempo are Forty Under, last year’s Pilgrim (G3) winner who finished second after rating behind a false pace in the $100,000 Woodhaven at Aqueduct in his season return April 20. The son of Uncle Mo has caught yielding ground in his past three starts, but won on firm when graduating at Saratoga last summer.
Casa Creed blows hot and cold, but was only three parts of a length behind A Thread of Blue in the Palm Beach in early March. Empire of War defeated A Thread of Blue in last fall’s $100,000 Awad at Belmont, but was a distant third in the Woodhaven last time.
Group 3 winner The Black Album was unplaced twice over the Churchill turf in the Breeders’ Cup and American Turf, but placed in the Transylvania (G3) at Keeneland two back.
“He was 10 or 12 lengths off the pace, and it was a slow pace of 49 seconds,” trainer Rodolphe Brisset said of The Black Album’s run in the American Turf. “It’s hard to close in a pace like that, and he did. He cut the corner and closed some ground. We just crossed that race off and looked at the next one, and this mile is what we’re looking forward to.”
The Chad Brown-trained Regal Glory will likely be heavily favored in the $200,000 Penn Oaks for three-year-old fillies, also at one mile on turf. The daughter of Animal Kingdom was a stakes winner at Aqueduct last November and has since placed in both the Sweetest Chant (G3) and Appalachian (G2).
If the ground is firm enough, veteran Pure Sensation is a likely starter in the $100,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at five furlongs. While never a starter at Penn National, the eight-year-old gray has dominated the major grass sprints at Parx in recent years.
Pure Sensation’s leading rival would be Completed Pass, who landed the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on Preakness weekend.
The other open stakes on Saturday’s card, the biggest of the season at the suburban Harrisburg track, are the $100,000 Susquehanna for fillies at mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; the $100,000 Chocolate Town Sprint for older horses at six furlongs; and the $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash for fillies and mares at six furlongs.