Fall brings great horse racing across the country, and Pennsylvania’s top events at Presque Isle Downs and Parx serve as preps for many talented horses on their way to the Breeders’ Cup in November. Parx holds the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby and the Grade1 Cotillion, and Presque Isle Downs offers the Grade 2 Masters and the Presque Isle Mile.

Photo Credit to Presque Isle Downs

Located about 5 miles from downtown Erie, Pennsylvania, Presque Isle Downs is now owned by Churchill Downs, and its two major events, the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes and the Presque Isle Mile both held on September 19, 2022, draws top horses and trainers from across the country and Canada.  Several horses have gone on to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint after competing in the Masters. Instead of a dirt and turf racing surface, Presque Isle Downs was the first track in the U.S. to use the synthetic surface Tapeta.

Tapeta was established by champion trainer Michael Dickinson and is an all-weather synthetic surface comprised of a mixture of silica sand, wax, and fibers that simulates the root structure of turf. The surface handles heavy rain and wet weather better than dirt and turf and improves the horse’s safety. The feel of the track is different than dirt is to a horse, and more like turf, so turf horses seem to like Tapeta. To get used to the synthetic surface, some trainers ship their horses to Presque Isle early to train and breeze on the surface.

The race track opened in 2007 promoting their “all-weather” track and held the first Masters Stakes for fillies and mares 3 years old and up at 6 furlongs for a purse of $400,000. In 2009, the race was increased to 61/2 furlongs and upgraded to a Grade 3 event. After two years, in 2011, the race was upgraded again to a Grade 2 with a $400,000 purse. The Masters and the Mile were not held in 2020 and 2021, but this year the races are back along with the first running of two new stakes, The Dobbs Landing Stakes with a purse of $75,000 for 3 year olds and up going 6 ½ furlongs, and The Gem City Stakes, purse $75,000 for fillies and mares 3 years old and up going 11/16 miles.

In the past, several fillies achieved back to back wins in the Masters including Hotshot Anna in 2018 & 2019, Living the Life (Ire) in 2014 & 2015, Informed Decision in 2009 & 2010, and Groupie Doll in 2012 & 2013. Groupie Doll also won back to back Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint races the same years, and Informed Decision won two Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprints in 2007 & 2009 and received the 2009 Eclipse Award as American Champion Female Sprinter.

This year, the Masters’ 40 nominations include horses trained by leading trainers Brad Cox, Mark Casse, “Shug” McGaughey, Saffie Joseph, and Christophe Clement. Horses nominated include Parx favorite and PA-bred Chub Wagon and PA-bred and multiple graded stakes winning Caravel, recent winner of the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga. Mainly raced on turf, Caravel has a perfect score on synthetic surfaces with two wins at Presque Isle Downs. Others nominated are Amalfie Princess, trained by Michael Maker, and a winner on turf, and Artie’s Princess, trained by Saffie Joseph, whose wins were all on synthetic surfaces.

The $200,000 Presque Isle Mile for 3 year olds and up going one mile and a sixteenth has 41 nominations and includes horses trained by Mark Casse, Bill Mott, Brad Cox, and Saffie Joseph. A few of the horses nominated are Fulsome, a multiple graded stakes winner of over $1 million, trained by Brad Cox, Ramsey Solution, winner on the turf, trained by Saffie Joseph, and Wait for It, a PA-bred trained by Parx trainer Eddie Coletti Jr.

The inaugural Dobbs Landing Stakes received 29 nominations, and The Gem City has 32 nominations including horses trained by Saffie Joseph, Tim Girtin, and Brad Cox.

Whichever horses run in these stakes, a great day of racing awaits fans at Preque Isle Downs on September 19, 2022. Post time is 4:10 P.M. The PHRA will be there with their virtual reality simulator for fans to experience how it feels to be a jockey.

Cover Photo Credit to Presque Isle Downs

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