The fifth running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Penn Mile Stakes at Penn National brings together a group of 10 fairly accomplished 3-year-olds on the grass, with eight of them having been stakes-placed in their most recent starts. There's no clear standout based on company kept recently, but perhaps Grade 2 American Turf Stakes third-place finisher Big Score gets slight preference on that count, having won the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes prior to that. Bronson won the English Channel Stakes on grass last month, while Bonus Points captured the Parx Derby on the main track on the same date. Cistron finished second in the Desert Code Stakes and similarly Frostmourne was the runner-up in the Woodhaven Stakes, both on turf. Time to Travel tries turf for the first time and enters the Penn Mile off a runner-up effort in the Sir Barton Stakes. Mo Maverick led late then tired to third in the James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness undercard and may attempt to try to lead from start to finish. Holiday Stone was a close second to Big Score in the Transylvania before an eighth-place finish in the American Turf. Shiraz and Prize Fight round out the field of 10.
Time to Travel is a colt with a very bright future. He earned a stakes-quality 102 Equibase Speed Figure in only the second start of his career when winning by nearly five lengths on April 1 in a sprint. Two weeks later he stretched to two turns in the Lexington Stakes, making the lead with about a quarter mile to go but tiring a bit to fourth at the end. In his most recent race, the Sir Barton Stakes, Time to Travel once again stalked the pacesetter to take the lead, this time with an eighth of a mile to go, but was outfinished and ended up second. Being a full brother to multiple graded stakes winner (on turf) Hard Not to Like, I am expecting Time to Travel to take to turf like a duck takes to water and to run the best race of his career to post the upset in the Penn Mile.
Frostmourne has four races under his belt to date, all on turf, with two wins and a runner-up finish. The runner-up effort came in his most recent race and was his best yet, earning a 102 E Figure in the Woodhaven Stakes to Secretary At War, who is bound to be a star before long. Considering Frostmourne was making his 3-year-old debut and first start following six months off we can expect significant improvement in the Penn Mile, making this colt a strong contender.
Big Score is another horse that has shown a liking for the turf, with three wins in six starts including the Zuma Beach Stakes in October and the Transylvania Stakes in April. His Transylvania victory followed five months off and resulted in a career-best 107 figure, followed by a new career-best 108 figure when third in the American Turf Stakes last month, beaten a head for second. Likely to run as well or better in the Penn Mile in his third start of his 2017 campaign, Big Score rounds out a strong trio of win contenders.
The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Bonus Points (90), Bronson (99), Cistron (100), Holiday Stone (106), Mo Maverick (99), Prize Fight (89) and Shiraz (94).
Time to Travel