By Tom LaMarra
A full field of 12 was entered for the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile Sept. 16, and on paper it appears to be one of the best wagering races offered in the 2018 MATCH Series.
It’s the second MATCH event to be held at Presque Isle Downs & Casino this year. The first, the Satin and Lace Stakes on Aug. 20, gave Jessica Krupnick the title in the Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division. With the retirement of 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division champion Page McKenney before the fourth leg, and a lack of other horses that qualify for bonus money, the Presque Isle Mile won’t have the same impact on divisional honors.
The Mile, run on the Tapeta surface, as usual attracted horses with strong records on synthetic surfaces. Among them are Hopefield Farm’s Gigantic Breeze and Triple K. Stables and Jagger Inc.’s Ghost Hunter, who finished first and second, respectively, in last year’s Mile.
Woodbine-based Nipigon, owned by Chiefswood Stable, is two-for-two at Presque Isle, having won his two local preps for the Mile. Another entrant, Crystal Racing Enterprises and Contreras Stable’s Matrooh, has been knocking heads with graded stakes runners this year and in May won the grade III Hanshin Stakes on the synthetic surface at Arlington Park.
The 3-1 morning-line choice is Racer’s Edge Inc. and Maxis Stable’s Decorated Soldier, winner of the grade III Seagram Cup at Woodbine in his last start. He has three wins and one second since the connections claimed him for $20,000 at Oaklawn Park in April.
The Presque Isle Mile and the grade II Presque Isle Masters Stakes on Sept. 17 generally produce the Pennsylvania track’s highest pari-mutuel figures. The Satin and Lace also generated wagering gains with a shift in its schedule.
Total handle of $252,151 for the Satin and Lace marked an increase of 89% from $133,387 for the same race in 2017. The handle figures are for all in-race wagers as well as horizontal bets that began with the Satin and Lace, which had a field of 10 this year versus 11 last year.
The stakes was held on a Sunday in June last year for which total wagering on eight races was $374,858. This year, total handle for a Monday night card of nine races was $1.29 million; the same-night eight-race card in 2017 yielded $996,289 in total handle.
By Tom LaMarra
Decorated Soldier became the latest former claimer to win a stakes when he ran down a runaway leader to take the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile at Presque Isle Downs & Casino the evening of Sept. 16.
The Mile was the fifth and final leg of the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division, which was won by the now-retired Page McKenney before the fourth leg of the division. It was the first start in the series for Decorated Soldier, who had been racing at Woodbine in Canada most of the summer.
The 5-year-old gelding was claimed for $20,000 by trainer Norman McKnight on behalf of Racer’s Edge Inc. and Masix Stable at Oaklawn Park in mid-April. Since then, Decorated Soldier has won four of five races–all of them on the synthetic Tapeta surface–at Woodbine and now Presque Isle.
Don’t Be So Salty set a rapid pace and opened at least a five-length lead on the backstretch while Decorated Soldier bided his time in second under jockey Willie Martinez. Decorated Soldier gradually reeled in the leader, took over and then held off a fast-closing Ghost Hunter–second in the Presque Isle Mile last year–to win by three-quarters of a length.
Decorated Solder returned $7.20 to win as the favorite and covered the one mile in 1:35.81 on the synthetic surface. Matrooh, far back early, closed nicely in the lane and just nipped Don’t Be So Salty for third.
The winner now has four victories and a second in five starts on Tapeta. In his previous start at Woodbine, Decorated Soldier won the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup, a grade III event.