By Tom LaMarra
The $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division), which attracted a field of 12 including one main-track-only entrant, is one of two MATCH Series events on the June 2 program at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
The Governor’s Cup joins the $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash (Filly and Mare Sprint–Turf Division) as part of a strong 11-race card headed by the $500,000, grade II Penn Mile for 3-year-olds on the grass. First post time for the Saturday card is 3:45 p.m. EDT.
The two MATCH events at Penn National are the second in their respective divisions, and there are plenty of newcomers. Imprimis, who won the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico Race Course, took a pass on the Governor’s Cup, and Girls Know Best, winner of The Very One Stakes, wasn’t entered in the Penn Ladies Dash.
Imprimis is based at Monmouth Park with trainer Joe Orseno, who after the Pimlico victory said if the 4-year-old gelding owned by Breeze Easy passes on the Penn National race, he would look at the grade III, $200,000 Parx Dash, the third leg of the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint–Turf Division, on July 7.
The lone entrant in the five-furlong Governor’s Cup that competed in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint is Mary Eppler Racing Stables’ Oak Bluffs, who finished third at Pimlico on a course rated soft that may not have been to his liking. The 8-year-old gelding finished second in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint earlier this year, and last year finished a close fourth, placed third, after a very troubled trip in the Governor’s Cup.
Eppler won the grade III, $100,000 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park May 26 with fan favorite Page McKenney, a Pennsylvania-bred who now has 10 points in the series.
Oak Bluffs, bred by Patricia Generazio, is a New Jersey-bred and as such is eligible for a MATCH Series bonus from the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association of New Jersey based on total points accumulated by a colt or gelding. Oak Bluffs currently has 5 points in the series.
The morning-line favorite is Generazio’s Pure Sensation, who finished a good second in his only start this year in a Gulfstream allowance race at five furlongs on the turf. The 7-year-old gelding last year won the grade III Turf Monster Stakes at Parx Racing and ended his campaign with a fifth-place finish, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths, in the grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
The Governor’s Cup attracted five Pennsylvania-breds, all of which are eligible for a MATCH Series bonus from the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. The race drew a 12-horse field, though Ugottahaveheart is entered for the main track only.
The Governor’s Cup also is part of the Penn Gaming Challenge, a series of unrestricted stakes at the company’s tracks. The owner, trainer and jockey with the most points across all divisions get a free trip for two to Las Vegas.
By Tom LaMarra
Oak Bluffs, an 8-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding, became the MATCH Series leader with a sharp victory in the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup June 2 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
Oak Bluffs earned 10 points in the Governor’s Cup, the second of five races in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division, and five for his third-place finish in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 26. That means Mary Eppler, who trains and owns Oak Bluffs, is now the leading MATCH Series owner and trainer by points with 15.
Ridden by Paco Lopez, Oak Bluffs rated off a quick early pace in the five-furlong turf race, moved up along the inside on the far turn, and then angled outside to make his run at the top of the stretch. He rallied past eventual third-place finisher Pool Winner and held off a rallying Dubini by three-quarters of a length.
The winner paid $6.80 as the favorite in a 10-horse field and covered the distance in :56.10 on a course rated firm.
Eppler, a strong supporter of the MATCH Series, said she expects Oak Bluffs to be entered in the third race in the division, the grade III, $200,000 Parx Dash July 7.
“This was fun,” Eppler said. “I think he’s better off going a little longer (than five furlongs), but I think we’ll look at the Parx Dash. He doesn’t like soft turf (like he got at Pimlico). He’s getting better and better. Was it his best race? Yes.”
Oak Bluffs was claimed by Eppler for $5,000 several years ago. He had been a stakes horse, and Eppler was able to get him back to top form.
Page McKenney, another 8-year-old gelding approaching the $2 million mark in earnings, is another former claimer trained by the Pimlico Race Course-based Eppler. He won the grade III, $100,000 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park May 26 and leads the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division.