Penn National has big show Wednesday


GRANTVILLE — There are plenty of story lines surrounding the Holiday Racing Festival on Wednesday night at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

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The $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap is the feature on the track’s 10-race card. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m. The Fabulous Strike is third in a trio of consecutive stakes races that start with the $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies in the second race, followed by the $100,000 Swatara Stakes.

A field of nine sprinters are entered in the Fabulous Strike, and the big question will be if Jim Stable’s Ben’s Cat, under 121 pounds, can achieve a four-peat in the six-furlong sprint. The legendary 9-year old winner of more than $2.49 million has won the first three runnings of the race for his Hall of Fame trainer and owner, King T. Leatherbury. This year, Ben’s Cat has posted two wins and three seconds in seven starts, including wins in the Laurel Turf Sprint and the Mister Diz Stakes.

America’s leading jockey, Javier Castellano, lends another twist to the night. He will come down from New York to accept two mounts on the card, including a repeat ride aboard PJG Stables Favorite Tale in the headliner. The 4-year old gelding, with the high weight at 124 pounds and the 2-1 morning-line pick, was third, beaten by less than two lengths after a very wide trip, in the $1.5 million Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland on Oct. 31.

Castellano, whose mounts have banked more than $25 million this year, will also ride Catron for racing’s top trainer, Todd Pletcher, in the Swatara Stakes over a mile and 1/16th. The 5-year old has caught a very tough spot. The field includes four-time 2015 stakes winner Page McKenney; Kid Cruz, stakes winner of more than $580,000; and Stormin' Monarchos, which won the Swatara last year and beat Kid Cruz in a $100,000 one-mile allowance race on Oct. 28 at Belmont Park.

Ten Pennsylvania-bred 2-year-olds do battle in the Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies. The big question mark in the race is Peter Kazamias’ Behrnik’s Bank, who stunned race goers on Nov. 4 when she won her career debut by 18 lengths at Penn National in a mercurial 1 minute, 9.4 seconds. The bay filly will be tested for class in the Blue Mountain by the likes of Barlar LLC’s Imply, winner of a restricted stake at Presque Isle on Sept. 20, and Maggi Moss’ It’s a Journey, undefeated in two lifetime starts.