GRANTVILLE — It’s not often that a 2-year old filly with just two starts grabs the headlines from a multiple graded stakes winner, but some may argue that was the case after the results were in from Wednesday night’s Holiday Racing Festival at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course .
The Thanksgiving Eve program featured a trio of stakes races headed by the fourth running of the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap.The six-furlong sprint was won by PJG Stable’s Favorite Tale in 1 minute, 11 seconds under America’s leading jockey Javier Castellano.
Two races earlier, the holiday crowd watched in awe as Peter Kazamias’ Behrnik’s Bank humbled six rivals in the $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies, winning by 13 lengths. The freshmen daughter of Bank Heist stopped the teletimer in 1:10.1 and won like a 1-5 shot should — with jockey Edwin Gonzales looking over his shoulder for the competition.
Behrnik’s Banks’ win came just three weeks after she raised eyebrows across the country by winning her Penn National debut by 18 lengths in 1:09.3 for trainer Dimitrios Synnefias.
“We got offers for her after her first win”, said a jubilant Kazamias, “but she belonged in this race. We’ve been at Penn National for many years and this race was important to me. Now I expect there will be even more interest in her, and sure, we’ll be listening”.
Favorite Tale toted top weight of 124 pounds. and utilized the same tactics as Behrnik’s Bank in the Fabulous Strike. Fresh off an unlucky third in the $1.5 million Grade I Breeders' Cup Sprint, Favorite Tale sped the opening quarter in :22:05 and first half in :45.19 before opening up a two-length lead passing the quarter pole.
The 4-year old gelding, trained by Guadalupe Preciado, maintained his margin to the wire, with the late-running pair of Majestic Hussar, at 87-1, and Galiana, at 56-1, taking second and third, respectively.
“This horse deserved to win” Castellano said. “We had post 14 in the Breeders' Cup, had to race six and seven-wide on the entire turn, and got beat less than two lengths. He ran fastest that day, and showed his true class tonight”.
Preciado said that Favorite Tale, who banked $112,400 for his third win of the year from seven starts, would be heading to Florida. Then, with a gleam in his eye, noted that “Dubai is something we might think about”.
Favorite Tale’s win thwarted Ben’s Cats attempt to win the Fabulous Strike for the fourth consecutive year. The 9-year old, winner of more than $2.4 million, checked in seventh after making a brief run in midstretch.
Jockey Horacio Karamanos let a hot early pace duel dictate the winning tactics for his ride aboard Page McKenney in the $100,000 Swatara Stakes. The 5-year old gelding usually lays close to the speed for a late run but dropped well back as Kobel, Stormin Monarcho, and Guns of Steel battled through an opening half-mile in :47 in the mile and 1/16th race.
Karamanos moved Page McKenney on the far turn and the pair rallied down the middle of the track while New York invader Kid Cruz rallied along the rail. The 3-2 betting choice proved best by a half-length in 1:44.08, getting his fifth stakes win of the year for trainer Mary Eppler while raising his 2015 earnings to $589,900.