The Penn Mile at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is one of the most prestigious horse races in the state. The event held at the Grantville, PA casino is only 10 years old, but has grown into a top Grade II horse race.
With the Penn Mile card drawn late last week, PA horse racing bettors can now wager on the June 2 event.
Chris McErleane, Vice President of Racing at Hollywood Casino at PNRC, spoke to PlayPennsylvania on the growth of the event.
2023 Penn Mile field and opening odds
|1||Movisitor||Adam Beschizza||Edward Vaughan||15/1|
|2||Major Dude||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Todd Pletcher||8/5|
|3||Fletcher||Jeiron Barbosa||James L. Lawrence, II||20/1|
|4||Upstate and Back||Tyler Conner||Naoise Agnew||30/1|
|5||Recruiter||Jorge Ruiz||Cathal A. Lynch||6/1|
|6||Tuskegee Airmen||Frankie Pennington||John C. Servis||6/1|
|7||Behind Enemy Lines||Flavien Prat||Jack Sisterson||5/1|
|8||Candidate||Arnaud Delacour||Trevor McCarthy||5/2|
How the Penn Mile quickly became so popular
The Penn Mile at Hollywood Casino PNRC first ran in 2013 as an ungraded race. After the first two years of running, the American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC) ruled the event as a Grade III. Then after the third year, the AGSC upgraded the race to a Grade II, a step below notable national races such as the Triple Crown series and Breeders’ Cup.
Each year, the AGSC reviews events around the country and gives grades to races, while adjusting others. A race must run for two years before receiving consideration for a grade.
“It’s pretty unusual to have that done in your first go-around for the evaluation,” McErlean told PlayPennsylvania. “It got consideration really quickly, which speaks to the quality of the race and we’ve been able to maintain that going forward.”
Penn Mile’s unique niche within the PA horse racing calendar
Hollywood Casino PNRC strategically scheduled the race during the Triple Crown season, between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, because of the three-week gap. McEarlean also said the casino filled a niche with the race being one of a few races to include three-year-old thoroughbreds.
To grab some national attention, Hollywood Casino at PNRC initially put out a $500,000 purse price for the Penn Mile. With four other stakes races and the Penn Oaks on the card, around $1 million in prize money is handed out.
“We were trying to create events by grouping our stake races on a single race card to create a bigger event as opposed to spreading them out throughout the season,” McEarlean said.
After a one-year hiatus of the Penn Mile in 2020 due to COVID-19, McEarlean said to further stand out, the casino moved the race to Friday night in 2021 and 2022, instead of Saturday. Last year, Hollywood Casino at PNRC recorded its best handle day of all time, taking in $4 million during the race card.
The top five handle days in Hollywood Casino at PNRC’s history have each come during the Penn Mile.
The event has been able to attract Hall of Fame trainers such as Todd Pletcher and Shug McGaughey, along with horses who have won Breeders’ Cups after competing in the PA race. Pletcher also has a horse running in this year’s version.
McEarlean said the combination of a good field size, with competitive horses and recognizable names, makes for a prestigious event.
Where to bet on horse racing in Pennsylvania
You can bet on the Penn Mile and other horse racing action through the following:
Full race card at the 2023 Penn Mile
- Penn Mile ($400,000 purse)
- Penn Oaks ($150,000 purse)
$100,000 Stakes Races:
- New Start
The first race starts at 5 p.m., with the Penn Mile expected to run at around 7:45 p.m. as the sixth race of the evening.
McEarlean is expecting “several thousand” in attendance to watch the full card, leading up to the Penn Mile. Admission into the racetrack is free for all ages and also includes food trucks, live music and concessions. McEarlean wants the evening to be considered a “party atmosphere.”
Larry Collmus, Kentucky Derby play-by-play announcer for NBC, will be on-hand to call the Penn Mile card at Hollywood Casino PNRC.