Rattlesnake Bridge might finally get his big second chance. After 16 months on the sidelines, the 5-year-old makes his third start of the year in Saturday night’s $250,000 Mountainview Handicap at Penn National.
Owned by the Brady family’s Mill House and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the son of Tapit was second in the Travers and third in the Pennsylvania Derby two years ago. Ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to end the season, he didn’t run again until 2013 – the victim of canon-bone bruising and more stops and starts than Memorial Day traffic.
“He never had surgery, just the bruising,” said McLaughlin. “We brought him back, got him going, weren’t happy with him, stopped again, brought him back again.”
The Kentucky-bred – named for a road near the Brady family’s home in Bedminster, N.J. – returned in style, shaking off the cobwebs while taking a Gulfstream Park optional claimer March 30. Third behind Flat Out and Cross Traffic in the Grade 3 Westchester April 27 at Belmont, Rattlesnake Bridge skipped the Metropolitan Mile in favor of the 1 1/8-mile Mountainview for several reasons.
“One is the two turns, one is the distance, one is the company,” said McLaughlin said. “We think he’s better at two turns and this just seems like the better spot.”
Another reason McLaughlin makes a rare foray to Penn is Dan Silver, the track’s new director of racing operations and man behind Saturday night’s stakes-filled lineup. He used to work for the New York Racing Association and gained a solid reputation with McLaughlin and other horsemen.
“I don’t mind saying this, Dan Silver is a really good guy and is a friend to us,” McLaughlin said. “We’re happy to go over there and show some support. He talked to us about this day months ago and we’ve always had it in our mind. I wish we had one in the $500,000 Mile, too.”
He doesn’t, but McLaughlin might have a player for bigger races this year if Rattlesnake Bridge can continue to progress.
“It’s very nice when you have owners who understand the game and are willing to be patient,” the trainer said. “We’re hoping we get lucky and win Saturday and then maybe come back in the Suburban and a couple of the other big ones. We think he’s better going longer so we have a lot of opportunities. Hopefully he’s that type of horse. It’s not like he had a tendon or a throat or something you’re worried about all the time. He’s moving better than ever, doing great and we feel lucky to have him back in the barn.”
Listed as the 5-2 favorite with John Velazquez aboard, Rattlesnake Bridge faces seven foes led by 7-2 second choice Macho Macho from the barn of Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old won the West Virginia Derby last year and exits two Grade 2 tries this year and gets Joel Rosario in the saddle. Bob LaPenta’s Easter Gift (9-2, Kendrick Carmouche) rides back-to-back wins into Penn National for trainer Chad Brown. The son of Hard Spun won the Smarty Jones Stakes last year. Grade 3 winner Jiminator lugs a gaudy record of 11 wins into the Moutainview for trainer Mike Trombetta and Three Diamonds Farm. The 7-year-old Broken Vow gelding won Laurel’s John B. Campbell last winter before heading to the sidelines for more than a year. Others in the field are Adirondack King, 4-1 third choice Pants On Fire, Norman Asbjornson and Great Investment. Trained by John Conner, the latter represents the locals with four wins over the track this year.
The Mountainview goes as the night’s third race with a post time of 6:56.
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