Things Heat Up at Penn, More Drama in California

Penn Mile Takes Center Stage
On a normal Saturday night, horses at Penn National Race Course run with $5,000 claiming tags for purses around $12,500. The track is one of many throughout America that has a core of hard working trainers, jockeys, and staff who operate underneath the radar and out of the spotlight. That all changes this Saturday as some of America’s best turf runners come to Grantville, highlighted by the $500,000 Grade II Penn Mile.

Just shy of perfect this season, Leonard Green’s A Thread of Blue is seeking a return to the winner’s circle Saturday. If all goes well, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the Hard Spun colt could stretch out for the new Turf Trinity this summer in New York. The Turf Trinity consists of the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Derby Invitational July 6, the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby Aug. 4, and the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Derby Sept. 7.

“It just looks like (the Penn Mile) will suit him well, and we’ll figure out what we have to do to go a little further next time,” McLaughlin told horseracingnation.com. “But he’s a very handy horse, he has tactical speed. We don’t think distance will be a problem, but this is just a great opportunity, and it’d be nice to win a grade 2 with him.”

A Thread of Blue won three consecutive turf races during Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet, including the one-mile Dania Beach Stakes Feb. 3 and 1 1/16-mile Palm Beach Stakes March 2. He went to the lead in the May 4 American Turf, run at 1 1/16 miles over Churchill Downs’ turf, and nearly wired the race before Chad Brown-trained Digital Age got up by three-quarters of a length.

Jockey Luis Saez, who has been aboard in A Thread of Blue’s past four starts, retains the mount.

“We’ve lucked out that Saez has run and won with him before and he’s given us the call again, which is great,” Green told horseracingnation.com. “It’s always nice to have somebody aboard who’s actually been on the horse before, and won on the horse before.”

Eight other sophomores will take on A Thread of Blue Saturday, including August Dawn Farm’s Forty Under, another horse that could be seen in the Turf Trinity. Forty Under impressed as a juvenile by winning the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont in September. He wrapped up 2018 with a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and kicked off this season with a runner-up effort in the April 20 Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s The Black Album, a group 3 winner in his native France, will make his third stateside start in the Penn Mile. He was third, beaten a length, in the April 5 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland and seventh in the American Turf.

Three Diamonds Farm’s Nov. 4 Awad Stakes winner Empire of War and LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Jan. 5 Kitten’s Joy Stakes winner Casa Creed are among those hoping to make the grade. Casa Creed has finished behind A Thread of Blue in his past three starts.

Governor Joins the Crusade
In response to the increasing number of equine deaths in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday his support for SB 469 by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa). The bill authorizes the California Horse Racing Board to suspend horse racing licenses to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.

The announcement comes after the 26th fatality at Santa Anita Park since the racing season began Dec. 26.

“The recent horse fatalities in California are unacceptable,” said Governor Newsom in a press release. “We must hold the horse racing industry to account. If we can regulate horse race meets, we should have the authority to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”

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