Steeplechasing moves into Central Pennsylvania on Friday, June 24, for two races at Penn National Race Course, and the featured $30,000 optional allowance drew a crowded, highly competitive field. Also on tap is a $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle; both races will be run at 2 1/16 miles on the turf course.
Four winners of 2011 races will share the 156-pound highweight. Owner-trainer Michele Sanger’s Fog Island enters the Penn National optional allowance from a sparkling 4 3/4-length victory in the $25,000 George Sloan and John Sloan Sr., a Sport of Kings maiden hurdle at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 14. Ross Geraghty has the mount.
Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff finished fourth behind Fog Island in the Iroquois race, and the Tiznow gelding roared back to win the $25,000 Delaware Park Hurdle, a Sport of Kings maiden race, at the Fair Hill Races on May 28. Trainer Jack Fisher named Willie Dowling to ride Mr. Hot Stuff.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot will saddle Cherry Knoll Farm’s Roman Glory, an Irish-bred who won his first U.S. start, a maiden hurdle at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 30. The five-year-old Soviet Star gelding subsequently was pulled up in the Vita C. Thompson Memorial, an allowance race at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 21. Robbie Walsh has the mount.
Hickory Tree Stables’ Slaney Rock collected his maiden victory at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in Raeford, N.C., on April 9 and sharpened for the Penn National race with a third in a starter allowance on the flat at Atlantic City Race Course on May 3. Trainer Michael Aro named Xavier Aizpuru to ride.
Several veteran steeplechase competitors will be seeking to break into the win column for 2011. Dumbarton Farm’s Easy Red finished third in a Penn National optional allowance last year before winning a Saratoga Race Course optional allowance and the $70,000 Metcalf Memorial at Monmouth Park on Sept. 25. In his only 2011 start, the nine-year-old Charismatic homebred finished sixth in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at the Iroquois Steeplechase. Trainer Tom Voss named champion jockey Paddy Young to ride Easy Red.
Trainer Kathy McKenna entered Chadds Ford Stables’ Saluda Sam, who kicked off his 2011 season with a second-place finish behind promising newcomer Lake Placid in an optional allowance at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 7 and finished fourth in the Thompson Memorial two weeks later. Carl Rafter will ride.
Also entering the Penn National contest from the Thompson Memorial was Caves Farm’s Grantor, who finished fifth. Trainer Mark O’Dwyer named Jacob Roberts to ride the six-year-old Broken Vow gelding.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard entered Parker’s Project and Air Maggy, both of whom are looking for their first 2011 wins. Owned by Hudson River Farms, Parker’s Project won his maiden victory at the Saratoga Open House last July and started the current season with a sixth-place finish in the Thompson Memorial. Danielle Hodsdon will be in the saddle.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Air Maggy finished fourth behind Lake Placid in the optional allowance at the Virginia Gold Cup in The Plains. Brian Crowley will ride.
Elliot also entered Laura Thiel Shull’s Silent Vow, winner of an claiming race at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 16. Bernie Dalton has the mount. Voss entered owner-breeder Sondra Benders’ El Viaje, an also-eligible who would be making his first 2011 start.