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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

A Thread of Blue Cuts Back in Penn Mile


After taking the field through every call only to lose by less than a length to undefeated Digital Age in the American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, A Thread of Blue will seek to resume his speedy dominance Saturday in the Penn Mile.

The race, a grade II after only six years, is run at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

Trained in New York by Kiaran McLaughlin, A Thread of Blue hinted at his quality as a two-year-old last year and then rose to the top of the class this past winter at Gulfstream Park, winning an allowance race, the Dania Beach Stakes and the Palm Beach Stakes in succession under jockey Luis Saez.

He made all the pace in the American Turf, widening his lead to three lengths at the top of the stretch, before being caught near the line. The Kentucky-bred son of Hard Spun boasts a record of four wins, two seconds and a third from eight starts with earnings of $315,190.

“He shows up every time,” said McLaughlin. “He shows a lot of speed, but in the Palm Beach he laid off the pace, and that was nice. Luis Saez will be there. We thought the turnback to a mile will be great. We thought this was a great spot and great timing.”

A Thread of Blue will carry top weight of 122 pounds and morning-line favoritism at 5-2 odds against eight rivals, including Casa Creed, runner-up in the Palm Beach Stakes; The Black Album, a Group 3 stakes winner in France who was beaten less than three lengths in the American Turf; and Forty Under, winner last September of the Pilgrim Stakes on the turf at Belmont Park.

The Penn Mile has once again attracted trainer Mark Casse, whose runners finished one-two in the 2016 Penn Mile -- Catch a Glimpse defeated Airoforce.

This year, the trainer returns with Moon Colony (12-1), a half-brother to multiple-graded stakes winner Cavorting, who earned more than $2 million in her career. Moon Colony broke his maiden on the grass at Keeneland last October and a month later delivered a powerful two-length victory in a turf allowance race at Fair Grounds.

Casse gave Moon Colony some time off after a close-up fifth-place finish in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes in January at Gulfstream Park.

“I like him a lot,” Casse said. “When the dust clears, he’s going to be a good horse. I gave him a little break after his last race. He wasn’t very heavy and lightened up after the Kitten’s Joy, and I brought him to our training center in Ocala, and he’s come back and trained extremely well.”

While Moon Colony’s female family has predominantly produced dirt runners, his sire Uncle Mo’s offspring also take to grass racing.

“He trains good on both,” Casse said. “I thought the grass would be better for him off a long layoff.”

Casa Creed (6-1), trained by Bill Mott, defeated Moon Colony in the Kitten’s Joy before finishing sixth behind A Thread of Blue in the Dania Beach, second by just three-quarters of a length in the Palm Beach and ninth in the American Turf.

Another top contender in the race is Real News (5-1), trained by Al Stall. The son of The Factor finished second, beaten just a half-length, on May 18 in the James W. Murphy Stakes at a mile on the grass on the Preakness Stakes undercard. The colt has two wins and two runner-up finishes in four starts.

A longshot in the mix is the French-bred The Black Album (15-1), trained in Kentucky by Rodolphe Brisset.

The Black Album won a Group 3 stakes race at Longchamp before coming to the United States and finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on soft ground at Churchill Downs. Since then, he finished third in the Transylvania in April at Keeneland and then loomed boldly in the stretch after a poor start when seventh in the American Turf.

“He actually ran his best race last time,” Brisset said. “He was number 12 and was acting up and rearing up a little bit. It was just very bad timing. The 11 went up in the air at the break, and our horse looked left and the gate opened, and he just broke up in the air. He was 10 or 12 lengths off the pace, and it was a slow pace of 49 seconds. It's hard to close in a pace like that, and he did. He cut the corner and closed some ground. We just crossed that race off and looked at the next one, and this mile is what we’re looking forward to.”

Trainer Jeremiah Englehart entered Forty Under (7-2), the aforementioned winner of the Pilgrim Stakes over yielding ground at Belmont Park. After that victory, the gray or roan son of Uncle Mo chased the pace in second into the stretch before fading to sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

In his lone start this year, Forty Under finished second in the listed Woodhaven Stakes on yielding ground at Aqueduct. In his only try on firm turf, Forty Under broke his maiden at Saratoga.

Awad Stakes winner Empire of War (9-2), trained by Todd Pletcher, comes into the Penn Mile off a couple of less-than-inspiring efforts since winning the Awad.

Completing the field for the Penn Mile are Fluminense (10-1), and Conative (20-1).

Edited release

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