As we move into a new decade, it’s time to take a look back at PA Racing’s biggest moments of 2019. 

The first big day of the season in Pennsylvania for the thoroughbreds was Penn Mile Day at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse on June 1. The day featured a card full of stakes races, worth over $1.3 million in purses, headlined by the $500,000 Grade 2 Penn Mile. 

The Penn Mile would wrap up the stakes portion of the card as race 11. A Thread Of Blue was sent off as the favorite, but Moon Colony and Julien Leparoux would come away victorious for trainer Mark Casse. The three-year-old Uncle Mo colt returned $21.60 for a $2 win ticket. Casa Creed was second, Real News was third, and A Thread of Blue rounded out the superfecta. The final time was 1:37:⅖. Four of the day’s stakes were part of the MATCH Series, that included the Chocolate Town Sprint, PA Governor’s Cup, Penn Ladies Dash, and the Susquehanna Stakes.  

The $200,000 Penn Oaks was carded as race 10 on the card. Regal Glory and Luis Saez won easily as the heavy favorite. Chad Brown trains Regal Glory, who covered the mile in 1:39:⅖ over the yielding turf course. 

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono played host to Sun Stakes Saturday on June 29th. Despite a very heavy downpour prior to the program, the track crew was able to get the track back into “good” condition for the start of the card, which featured the Earl Beal Jr Memorial Trot, the Max C. Hempt Memorial Pace, and the Ben Franklin FFA Pace with each carrying a $500,000 purse. 

Marseille wins the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr Memorial (Seth Dowling Photo)

Prior to the 3 richest stakes, the $300,000 James M Lynch 3FP was contested as the 9th race. Stonebridge Soul and Tim Tetrick rallied in the stretch to win in 1:49:⅗ for trainer Chris Ryder. The Max C. Hempt Memorial followed the Lynch, and Shake That House pulled away to a two length win for Brian Sears and trainer Chris Oakes in 1:49:⅖.  

Western Fame and McWicked battled on the tote board in the Ben Franklin, but it was This Is The Plan and Yannick Gingras who would emerge as the winner for trainer Ron Burke. This Is The Plan was sent off at 12/1 and, despite the off track, stopped the timer in 1:48:⅖. 

The biggest upset of the night came in the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr Memorial Trot. Greenshoe was sent off as the 1/9 favorite, but came up a head short to Marseille and Ake Svanstedt. Marseille stopped the teletimer in 1:52:⅗ and returned $116.00 for a $2 win ticket.

The Meadows held the 53rd Adios on the last Saturday in July. Prior to the Adios, two divisions of the Quinton Patterson Adioo Volo were held for the fillies. In the first division Stonebridge Soul and Tim Tetrick took the field gate to wire in 1:51:⅕. In the second division Tall Drink Hanover prevailed in 1:50:⅖ for Andy McCarthy. 

Southwind Ozzi wins a PA Sire Stake Division at Harrah’s Philadelphia. (Seth Dowling Photo)

In the $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios favorite Southwind Ozzi, with Brian Sears in the bike, sat in midpack through the first half, before clearing to the lead near the ¾ pole. Southwind Ozzi drew off to a 7 length win in 1:48, the second fastest Adios of all time. The mile just missed The Meadows track record as well. For trainer Bill Mac Kenzie, Southwind Ozzi would provide him with his first win in the Pace For The Orchids.

Parx Racing brought Smarty Jones back to the track on Labor Day. Smarty fans came from all over the country to see the legend himself! Prior to the race named in his honor, Smarty Jones paraded before a large crowd that had gathered on the apron level of the grandstand. Following his walk through the paddock, he returned to the winner’s circle where a special presentation followed. 

The twelve race program featured seven stakes races, which resulted in handle skyrocketing to double what it was in 2018. The $4,000,000 figure is believed to be the track’s highest handle ever on Labor Day. 

The two featured stakes races on the day were the Grade 3 Turf Monster and the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes. Both carried a purse of $300,000. The Turf Monster was won by Pure Sensation for the fourth time. Paco Lopez rode the Zensational gelding for trainer Christophe Clement, who covered the 5 furlongs in 57:⅘ over a turf course listed as “yielding”. 

The G3 Smarty Jones Stakes followed, and Parx-based Spun To Run would prevail after a stretch-long war with Gray Magician under jockey Paco Lopez.  Spun To Run is trained by Juan Guerrero and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 over a “good” track. 

Spun To Run wins the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile (Averie Levanti Photo)

That would not be the last we would hear of Spun To Run in 2019. Heading into the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Big Ass Fans Breeders Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita, Omaha Beach was sent off as the even money favorite. But Spun To Run went right to the lead and stood his ground, winning by 2 ¾ lengths under Irad Ortiz Jr in a time of 1:36:⅖, to give trainer Juan Guerrero his first Breeders Cup victory. The Hard Spun colt returned $20.20 for a $2 win ticket 

Presque Isle Downs held their two biggest races of their meet in September. The $200,000 Presque Isle Mile was up first. Mr Ritz took the lead on the backstretch and never looked back, winning the 1 1/16 miles contest by 1 ¼ lengths under Patrick Husbands for trainer Josie Carroll in 1:41:⅘. The time was a track record for the distance. The $400,000 Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters was held the following week. Hotshot Anna and Antonio Gillardo were 1 ¼ length winners in 1:15:⅕ for trainer Hugh Robertson. This was Hotshot Anna’s second consecutive Masters win, she is the fourth mare in the race’s history to be a repeat winner. 

Pennsylvania’s richest day of the year, Pennsylvania Derby Day, was held on September 21st at Parx with purses totaling $3,240,000. The day featured three graded stakes, including the $300,000 Gallant Bob, which was ran as a Grade 2 for the first time. King Jack stalked the pace early before pulling away to a 1 ½ length score under Joel Rosario. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer trains the Jimmy Creed gelding.

The Cotillion and Pennsylvania Derby followed the Gallant Bob, each race carried a $1,000,000 purse. In the Cotillion, Street Band and Sophie Doyle would rally wide to draw away to 2 ¼ length win in a minor upset. Larry Jones trains the Istan filly, who with the win earned a birth to the Breeders Cup Distaff. Street Band is owned by the MyRacehorse fractional ownership group.

In the Pennsylvania Derby it was Math Wizard, who was sent off as the second longest shot on the board, who would come away victorious for Irad Ortiz Jr and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. Math Wizard returned tote dividends of $64.20, $12.00, and $4.80. Math Wizard covered the 1 ⅛ miles in 1:50:⅘. 

British Idiom wins the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (Averie Levanti Photo)

Spun To Run wasn’t the only horse with Pennsylvania ties to win at the Breeders Cup. British Idiom, who is sired by PA sire Flashback, came away victorious in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies. Sent off as the second choice, British Idiom wore down favorite Donna Veloce to win in 1:47. Javier Castellano was aboard for trainer Brad Cox. 

The 81st Auction of The Standardbred Horse Sales Company was held in November at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. Hopes were high for a strong sale after a record setting 2018, and it did not disappoint. The gross for the five day sale was $67,757,000, the second highest in the sale’s history. The sales topper was hip number 45, Gangsta Rat. The Muscle Hill-Order By Wish yearling was purchased by Ake Svanstedt for $550,000. 

Firenze Fire wins the Fabulous Strike (Seth Dowling Photo)

Penn National held their Holiday Racing Festival on Thanksgiving Eve. The feature race of the night was the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Stakes. At 6 furlongs, the race attracted a very strong field, headlined by Firenze Fire who was making his first start since the Breeders Cup Sprint. Firenze Fire and Irad Ortiz stalked the pace early, before powering to the front with authority and coasting away to a 4 ¼ length win as the favorite for trainer Jason Servis.

The last big announcement in 2019 was that Hall of Famer Roger Huston would be retiring from day-to-day announcing at The Meadows. Roger was the voice of The Meadows since 1976 and of many of our county fairs. He was also the original host of The Meadows Racing Network, then Meadows Live, and now Meadows Racing. Huston was replaced by one of his longtime co-hosts and fill-in Jeff Zidek.

Thank you to all of our fans and industry participants for making 2019 great. It seems only fitting to borrow a line from Roger Huston as we head into 2020.  “BE HERE!” As we get set to start another great year in Pennsylvania racing! 


Cover Photo: Math Wizard wins the Pennsylvania Derby (Averie Levanti Photo)

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