Perhaps with the harsh winter finally behind, at least until the next arctic vortex arrives, Charles Town offered a trio of cards late last week that were more than mildly competitive. Several other West Virginia-breds opted to display their talents at other warmer venues, perhaps at tracks that are not accustomed to seeing them.
On Saturday evening a quartet of races, two early and two late, took center stage. In the eighth, a one-turn allowance dash for fillies and mares, Little Bop Beep posted a mild upset when she covered the 4 1/2-furlongs in 53.45. A 4-year-old Bop filly trained by John Dillow for owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms, Little Bop Beep notched her first win in three starts this year and now owns a 2-2-1 slate and $45,000 bankroll from eight career outings.
One race earlier on the card, Joanne Elizabeth prevailed as the solid favorite in a two-turn allowance for state-bred fillies. The sophomore daughter of Luftikus trained by John (Jerry) Robb for owner-breeder Ed Krishak, Joanne Elizabeth covered the seven panels in 1:28.98 for her second win in three starts this year and her third tally in five career tries.
Several races earlier on the card, Our Epiphany posted a mild upset in her career debut as she won at first asking for trainer and former jockey, Dane Kobiskie. The 3-year-old daughter of Great Notion covered the 6 1/2-furlongs in 1:22.11 to prevail at first asking for owner-breeder PTK Racing, LLC.
Two races earlier on the card, Brassy Star also garnered her diploma for trainer James Starkey and owner Curtis Dean by capturing a two-turn maiden special weight event for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old daughter of Pana Brass bred by Harry & Kate Painter, covered the seven panels in a pedestrian 1:31.59 for her first career victory.
Earlier that afternoon at Santa Anita, Daylight’s Coming finished fourth in a one-turn maiden special weight event for 3-year-old fillies. The West Virginia-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic trained by Jeff Bonde prompted the pace three-wide throughout and finished evenly to garner fourth money as first-timer Satirical prevailed by three lengths in 1:03.03 for the 5 1/2 furlongs. Daylight’s Coming has been fourth twice and fifth once in three career outings, but looks capable of winning at the level.
One day earlier at Gulfstream Park, a pair of West Virginia-breds went postward in the same one-turn allowance on the grass. In many ways, the track and surface are both doubly unusual for state-bred runners since there is no turf course at Charles Town and Mountaineer Park rarely uses its tight grass course.
Little Michelle, who had won a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park in her career debut despite a tardy beginning, was made the 9-5 second choice while Pocket Gift was an overlooked 29-1 longshot. One of them would finish third, while the other settled for sixth.
Soon after the gate opened in that one-turn allowance dash on the grass, favored Sweet Emma Rose broke alertly to gain command and would maintain a comfortable advantage throughout and held sway through the lane for a two-length score in 56.56.
Little Michelle was away a step slow again and saved ground down the backside and through the far turn, but she never had any racing room and was blocked in traffic and would only rally late to get third in a good effort. The daughter of Tiz Wonderful is named for HRTV analyst Michelle Yu, who also had a stint at TVG. Pocket Gift faded to sixth after the pressing the pace early.
That same night at Charles Town, Spa Creek kept her perfect record in tact on the season when she captured a two-turn allowance as the 7-5 second choice. A 4-year-old Smoke Glacken filly trained by Jeff Runco, has won both of her starts this season and now owns a 4-3-2 slate and $88,000 from 12 career tries. She covered the 6 1/2-furlongs in 1:22.34.
One night earlier at Charles Town, Samurai Sam kicked off his campaign by capturing a two-turn maiden special weight event by a length as the 4-1 third choice. A 4-year-old First Samurai gelding trained by Patrick Nuesch, Samurai Sam gained command soon after the break, opened a five-length lead on the far turn and just lasted for a length score over Burst of Fire. He covered the seven furlongs in 1:28.93 for his win in two career tries.
Several races later on the Thursday card, Shenandoah Grand easily lived up to his role as the 6-5 favorite in one-turn allowance when he led throughout to post a four-length score. A 5-year-old Civilisation gelding trained by Kevin Patterson for owner Robert Cole, Jr., Shenandoah Grand gained command soon after the break and was never threatened while covering the distance in 52.35 for his second win in as many starts this year. He now owns a 4-2-1 slate and $70,000 bankroll from 13 lifetime tries.
Then one race later on the card, Catch The Luck prevailed in his seasonal and local debut when he rallied from well off the pace and widest of all in the lane for a length score in a two-turn allowance. A 9-year-old AP Indy gelding owned and trained by Kevin Buttiegieg, Catch The Luck now owns an 8-9-7 slate and $350,000 bankroll from 49 lifetime outings. He had spent much of his career competing at Canadian ovals Woodbine Race Course and Fort Erie.
Also on Saturday afternoon, Game On Dude, defending champion of the Grade II, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, rebounded from a fifth-place effort in the San Antonio to capture the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap by two lengths over Will Take Charge.
A 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding trained by Bob Baffert and co-owned by former major league baseball player and recent Hall of Fame inductee Joe Torre, Game On Dude notched his 16th win in 31 career outings and went over the $6 million plateau in career earnings. He covered the one-mile and a quarter in a stellar 1:58.17 and edged away from Will Take Charge in the final furlong.