Learn the History of Penn National’s Biggest Annual Event: The Penn Mile!


Every year, Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pennsylvania, hosts one of the biggest events on the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association’s (PHRA) calendar: The Penn Mile.


As its name suggests, The Penn Mile is a Grade Three, one-mile (eight-furlong) race with a $400,000 grand prize that captures the hearts and minds of racing fanatics across the Keystone State. This year it will be held on Friday, May 31st, and as we patiently wait for the grand event, we’re reminded of the past Penn Miles that astounded observers and exhilarated the horse racing world.

It’s been over a decade since the first Penn Mile was run at Penn National Race Course and a lot has changed since it began in 2013. In this quick history lesson, we’ll discuss the fascinating story of the PHRA’s biggest race and explain why it’s a must-see for horse lovers, racing fans, and newbies to the sport alike.


Horses tear out of the starting gate at the 2023 Penn Mile. Photo by Averie Levanti

The Penn Mile is a Decade Old, but Penn National Race Course Goes Back Quite a Bit Further

At only a decade in age, the Penn Mile isn’t the first race to be run at Penn National Race Course—even if it is the grandest. The opulent track it takes place on dates back over 50 years to when an emerging Pennsylvania gaming tycoon began buying, building, and bankrolling race tracks across the state.


Penn National Race Course was actually established in 1972—over 40 years before the first Penn Mile. After a decade of watching races with his friends and business associates there, Peter Carlino, who already owned several gaming and racing establishments in the area, decided to pull the trigger on the purchase in the 80s. It has remained part of his company’s holdings ever since.


Peter Carlino purchased Penn National Race Course in 1982. Fun fact: At different points in his lifetime, Carlino established or owned several other thrilling PHRA tracks including Parx Racing and Casino and Pocono Downs at Mohegan. Photo from Gambling & Leisure Properties.

The First Penn Mile was a Watershed Moment

Even given the grandeur and notable status of Penn National Race Course, The Penn Mile is still a standout on its schedule. Not only does it boast the biggest purse of any race at the course, but it’s also the highest graded.


Horse races are often categorized based on the minimum purse (or total earnings) their winners take home. Graded races carry the highest minimum purses and are measured across three grades:


  • Grade Three – These carry a minimum purse of $100,000.

  • Grade Two – These events must boast a purse of at least $200,000.

  • Grade One – The highest grade events, these races feature a minimum purse of $300,000. 


When The Penn Mile held its inaugural stakes in 2013, it was initially an ungraded race. Nonetheless, this first Penn Mile boasted a massive $500,000 purse to stir up interest in the new event—and it worked.


Now, The Penn Mile has become a Grade Three race with a purse twice as large as the minimum for similar events, making it more exhilarating and consequential than many others in its class.


The Penn Mile is generally a grass-based race and has been run on turf annually since 2013 with the exception of two years:


  • 2020 – Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty regarding mass gatherings, Penn National Race Course was closed during much of 2020 and The Penn Mile was delayed for the year.

  • 2021 – Due to inclement weather and its effect on Penn National Race Course’s turf track, The Penn Mile was moved to dirt in 2021.
Historically, The Penn Mile is run on grass. Photo by Averie Levanti.


The Penn Mile’s Hall of Fame

Penn National Race Course is no stranger to speedy finishes. The track was actually the site of a world record run when two-year-old filly Winning Brew hit a blistering 43.97 miles per hour in 2008—the fastest pace ever set in a race. 


Over the years, The Penn Mile has likewise played host to a series of exhilarating races and, like other major events, officials have kept track of the track’s best performances and recurring winners. Some of The Penn Mile’s notable records include:

  • One-mile Speed Record – 1:33:99 set by Rydilluc at the inaugural Penn Mile in 2013.

  • Largest Margin of Victory – Three horse lengths by Hawkish in 2018.

  • Most Wins by a Jockey – Two by Puerto Rican-born riding sensation Irad Ortiz Jr. in 2017 and 2023.

  • Most Wins by a Trainer – Two by notable trainer Mark E. Casse in 2016 and 2019.
Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA is the home of The Penn Mile. A lot of memorable moments in horse racing history have happened at this track.

While these records set the stage for a day of exhilarating racing action at Penn National Race Course, they can be broken any year. So, to make sure you’re in the stands when a new pace is set or another jockey rises victorious, join us for The Penn Mile in 2024!


Come Down to Penn National Race Course on May 31st for an Unparalleled Evening of Racing Fun

The Penn Mile is a one-of-a-kind event that excites and entertains racing fanatics and casual viewers alike. Join us on May 31st to witness the PHRA’s biggest race in all its glory and get in on an evening of racing and betting action.


Major Dude was the winner at last year’s Penn Mile. Photo by Mark Pynes of Penn Live.

The event will be loaded with important races, including the $100,000 Lyphard Stakes, $100,000 Anticipation Stakes, and of course, the main event and reason for the evening: The Penn Mile. In addition to racing, we’ll also have giveaways, trivia, and tons of other entertainment to enjoy. Oh, and did we mention, it’s all free?


The first race kicks off at 5 pm but the fun starts even earlier. 


Learn more about The Penn Mile and make a plan to join us this Friday, May 31st for an unforgettable evening.


Blog Header Credit: Averie Levanti





Hollywood PNRC. Racing. https://www.hollywoodpnrc.com/racing


Mohegan Pennsylvania. Racing. https://moheganpa.com/racing.html


Parx Racing. Home. https://www.parxracing.com/

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