Forty Under training at Churchill Downs - © Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

Forty Under training at Churchill Downs – © Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

Saturday’s $500,000 Penn Mile Stakes (G2) at Penn National is stacked with accomplished 3-year-old turf runners, but despite the competitive look of the race, I’m expecting #5 Forty Under to deliver a winning performance.

After he finished ninth in his debut sprinting on dirt at Saratoga last summer, Forty Under switched to turf, stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and promptly sprung a 20-1 upset in another Saratoga maiden race. Forty Under followed up with a victory in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park and then finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

After a winter break Forty Under returned to action in the 1 1/16-mile Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct but encountered challenging circumstances. Over a yielding turf course, the frontrunning Clint Maroon was able to secure an uncontested lead through very slow fractions of :25.69, :51.17 and 1:15.98. Forty Under, reserved in third place, had no chance to close meaningful ground when Clint Maroon kicked on and ran the final five-sixteenths in :29.81, but Forty Under did rally resiliently to finish a clear second.

Forty Under will almost certainly receive a better setup in the Penn Mile, especially with #2 A Thread of Blue, #4 Real News and #7 Empire of War all expected to show speed. Having a prep run under his belt could also trigger improvement from Forty Under, and if he takes a step forward off his juvenile form, he should be tough to hold off down the Penn National homestretch.

For the exotics I respect the three pacesetters mentioned above. A Thread of Blue is a two-time stakes winner and the morning line favorite, after he finished second in the American Turf Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on May 4, but I’m just as intrigued by Real News. An accomplished sprinter, Real News failed by just a half-length to stretch his speed over a mile in the James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico two weeks ago. That was a sharp performance on a day when the Pimlico turf course seemed to be putting frontrunners at a disadvantage. #3 Casa Creed, the close runner-up behind A Thread of Blue in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3), could also contend on his best day.

If Forty Under stays anywhere near his 7-2 morning line odds, I’ll bet him to win and key him on top in the trifecta:

$12 to win on #5 Forty Under
$2 trifecta: 5 with 2,3,4 with 2,3,4,7 ($18)

Good luck!