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May 31, 2013

Up the Backstretch: Brand new stakes brings champs to Penn National

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - Penn National, the little track in central Pennsylvania, has decided to take some of its casino money and begin a new tradition Saturday night with the $500,000 Penn Mile Stakes.

Conveniently located in Grantville, Pa., north of Ephrata, west of Wyomissing, east of Duncannon and south of Jersey Shore, Penn National has attracted eight pretty good 3-year-olds who like running on the turf.

The best known of the field, although listed as the 4-1 fourth pick, is Charming Kitten, who's coming off a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

"We have always felt like Charming Kitten's favored surface was the turf," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He is versatile and handles multiple surfaces. We took a shot in the Derby and we thought he ran a big race there for his first dirt effort. He showed some guts and determination. Now it's back to his preferred surface."

Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Charming Kitten picked up his second career win back in January at Gulfstream Park in the grass stakes named for his sire, Kitten's Joy.

Remaining on the grass, the colt came in second six weeks later at Gulfstream in the Palm Beach when defeated by Rydilluc. Charming Kitten followed with a third in the Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland's synthetic main track before the Run for the Roses.

Pletcher's colt has the far outside post with Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Joel Rosario in the saddle.

Immediately to Charming Kitten's inside will be the 5-2 second favorite Rydilluc. The Palm Beach Stakes winner will again have Edgar Prado riding for trainer Gary Contessa.

"He certainly is right up there with the best horses that I have ever had," Contessa said. "He is the best moving horse that I have ever trained and he takes your breath away when he goes past you. Had he run one place better in the Blue Grass, we would have run him in the Derby. Edgar Prado has never really asked him for his best on the turf yet, and I am looking forward to seeing how he fares against the best turf horses in the country."

Rydilluc was fourth in the Blue Grass, beaten less than two lengths by Java's War.

Pletcher also has the 3-1 third choice in the program with lightly raced Jack Milton. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is back to ride the colt for the fourth time.

Jack Milton has been to the starting gate just three times prior and is coming off a neck victory in Keeneland's Transylvania Stakes on the turf.

"We were very high on him before his first race and even more so afterwards," Pletcher said. "In his second race, we were a little disappointed, but we felt his loss was because he didn't handle the surface that day. We were very impressed by his victory in the Transylvania and originally thought about the American Turf, but he acted like he needed some time. We know he likes running fresh, so we focused on the Penn Mile. He is training great coming into the race."

Winning the American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs was Noble Tune, the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday. Trainer Chad Brown has Javier Castellano riding from the inside post in an effort to duplicate the May 3 win.

"He is training very well and I am extremely happy with how he is coming into the race," Brown said. "Going into the American Turf, he was training better than I had ever seen him and I expected a big effort. I am looking forward to Saturday and it should be a great race."

Noble Tune, the richest of the eight entrants with $473,422 in earnings, was the 7-2 favorite in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. He finished second for the only loss in his five race career.

Posts 2-5 will be occupied by Pitch N Roll (20-1), Yougotthatgoinforu (50-1), Are You Kidding Me (12-1) and Triple Cross (20-1).

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