Pennsylvania has had legalized harness and thoroughbred horse racing since the 1960s. In fact, it still hosts some of the biggest events in US horse racing every year.
There are six live horse racing facilities in the state:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack in Chester (Harness)
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville (Thoroughbred)
- The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington (Harness)
- Parx Casino and Racing in Bensalem (Thoroughbred)
- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre (Harness)
- Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie (Thoroughbred)
Each hosts a variety of stakes races and series throughout the year. Here’s a list of the biggest and the best:
Pennsylvania Derby & Cotillion Day
There is no bigger day in Pennsylvania thoroughbred racing than Pennsylvania Derby & Cotillion Day. IAs always, it features not one, but two of the state’s most prestigious horse races.
First is the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, a nine-furlong race on the dirt track open to three-year-olds. The race has been held at Parx Casino and Racing in Bensalem, formerly Keystone Race Track and Philadelphia Park, since 1979.
Not coincidentally, Parx Casino and Racing is the state’s top-grossing casino and horse racing facility.
In 2017, the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast won the Pennsylvania Derby. A year earlier, Connect captured the crown in a race that featured a $1.25 million purse due to the presence of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and 2016 Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator.
The 2018 PA Derby winner was McKinzie, another Baffert horse.
The $1 Million Cotillion Stakes is also run on Pennsylvania Derby & Cotillion Day at Parx. This 8.5-furlong race on the dirt track is for three-year-old fillies and also awards a $1 million purse. The Cotillion started running in 1969 at the old Liberty Bell Park in Philadelphia.
Midnight Bisou won the Cotillion Stakes in 2018. Jockey Jeremy Rose rode Havre de Grace to victory in 2010, setting a Cotillion Stakes record time of 1:40.93 that still stands today.
The Penn Mile
The Penn Mile Stakes has only been running since 2013. However, it’s $500,000 purse, the largest at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, has quickly helped it become one of the top thoroughbred races in the state.
It’s a one-mile turf race for three-year-olds. It runs every year in early June. An influx of funds from the casino on the property help make the large purse possible.
The James J. Toner-trained Hawkster won the Penn Mile Stakes in 2018. Rydilluc won the inaugural Penn Mile Stakes in a time of 1:33.99 that still stands as the record.
Presque Isle Mile and Presque Isle Masters
Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie has played host to the next two biggest thoroughbred stakes races in the state every September for the past 12 years.
The facility’s one-mile oval Tapeta track is the only synthetic surface track in the state. Both the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile and the $400,000 Presque Isle Masters take place there.
On Sept. 16, 2018, Decorated Soldier won the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile. The one-mile race is for three-year-olds and up.
On Sept 17, 2018, Hotshot Anna won the $400,000 Presque Isle Masters. This 6.5-furlong race is for three-year-old and up fillies and mares. Hotshot Anna missed setting the track record by just five-hundredths of a second.
The $6 million Breeders Crown is an annual series of harness races that rotates between Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, The Meadowlands in New Jersey, Hoosier Park in Indiana, and Woodbine Racetrack in Canada.
It is harness racing’s richest and most prestigious divisional championship series. The series returns Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 to The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It traditionally involves all twelve harness racehorse categories of age, gait, and gender.
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs became the first track to stage all 12 Breeders Crown final races on a single night in 2010. The facility played host again in 2013.
The Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids
Outside of the Breeders Crown, The $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids is possibly the state’s premier Harness stakes series. Originally called the Adios Pace, the final has been run every July since 1967. It was renamed the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids in 1997 to honor the Hall of Fame Harness driver and trainer Delvin Miller.
The Meadows Racetrack and Casino hosts the series. It features a 5/8 mile oval standardbred harness racing track. Meadows opened in 1963 as the first parimutuel horse racing track in the state.
Dorsoduro Hanover won the 2018 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids this July.