West Virginia-bred 3-year-old division starting to take shape
CHARLES TOWN – Trainer Timothy Grams assured the owners that if they gave the young horse time to rest and mature the bay gelding would reward them for their patience.
Grams was right.
Dancing Roy has overcome nagging ankle problems that cost him an opportunity to race as a 2-year-old while his connections erred on the side of caution to join the discussion as one of the better up-and-coming 3-year-olds in training in West Virginia.
On Saturday night, Dancing Roy improved his record to four wins in five starts following a 2 1/2-length victory in the $50,000 Robert G. Leavitt Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
Under jockey Oscar Flores, Dancing Roy earned his initial black type victory during his stakes debut, topping a field of eight West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds while covering seven furlongs in 1 minute, 26.01 seconds over a dirt track rated fast.
The 7-2 second betting choice who trailed the early leader in second just to the outside for the first half-mile wrested control rounding the far turn and drew clear in the final strides. Dancing Roy paid $9 to win on a $2 wager.
Pin High and jockey Arnaldo Bocachica, who were never far back while saving ground, split horses entering the stretch and finished second at odds of 10-1. Little Big Sime and jockey Katie Crews rallied from last to finish third.
Reigning West Virginia-bred 2-year-old co-champion Amherst Street had been installed earlier during the week as the 8-5 morning line favorite, but scratched prior to the race. Amherst Street is undefeated in six starts, including five stakes victories.
“Amherst Street’s a nice horse,” Grams said. “But I’ll tell you what, this horse has just gotten better and better. I was ready for a big race and I was looking forward to tonight. I wanted to see this horse run against some good company because I knew he was a nice horse.”
Dancing Roy won his career debut April 30 as a 3-year-old after sitting out his 2-year-old season.
Grams said the horse displayed the kind of precociousness necessary for 2-year-olds to wage competitive campaigns, but “things were not going perfect.”
“We backed off him,” Grams said. “We kept him in light training as a 2-year-old and let him mature a little bit more. We gave him plenty of time and it’s all paid off.
“I said, ‘give this horse a break and he’ll pay you back.’”
Owned by Karen E. Steele, Dancing Roy has earned all of his $83,460 in career purse earnings at Charles Town.
Flores has had the mount in every race.
After his debut in April, Dancing Roy won two of his next three races. His lone career defeat came June 4 with a second-place finish after he stumbled badly and nearly fell at the start of a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race.
“We were very lucky that the horse didn’t fall,” Grams said. “He stumbled that bad. He kind of got up in the gate a little too far before the break. I told my wife I didn’t like the way he was standing there. He stumbled, but he made a big run. I knew after he made up that much ground that night that this (horse) here can run.”
Dancing Roy returned to the track a winner June 27 with his largest margin of victory yet, a 4 1/2-length victory covering 7/8 of a mile in 1 minute, 25.88 seconds against second-level state-bred allowance company.
On Saturday, Flores kept Dancing Roy near the lead after the gates opened in his stakes debut, taking a strong grip on second place just to the outside of the leader as the horses reached the first turn.
Dancing Roy trailed early pacesetter Chasin Rush and jockey Travis Dunkelberger through the first half-mile in 47.62 seconds and into the far turn. But as Chasin Rush began to tire and yield way, Flores took the lead in the turn and with a few cracks of the whip, Dancing Roy hit the stretch run 1 1/2-lengths clear and widened his advantage.
Pin High finished 2 1/2-lengths back in second, followed by Little Big Sime, Comeonletsplay, Late Caller, High N Dry, Chasin Rush and Love to Prospect.
High N Dry, the 11-10 post time favorite, was defeated for the first time in his third career start after bumping Little Big Sime at the beginning and being caught behind horses on the inside rail late without running room.
“The game plan was just to ride behind the speed and make one run after the quarter pole,” Flores said. “Turning for home I motioned a couple times and he just took off. I was just hand-riding him (down the stretch) because I knew I had plenty of horse left.”
Grams added: “We’re lucky he’s got tactical speed. I knew (Chasin Rush) would probably take the lead. I told Oscar, ‘Just try to draft over on him if you can.’ The good thing about this horse is he’s got a pretty high cruising speed and he can kick even after a 47 (second) half.”
The trainer said Dancing Roy will likely stick with racing against fellow West Virginia-bred horses during the remainder of his 3-year-old season.
Grams said he is hopeful to have the horse in the starting gate for the $85,000 West Virginia Lottery Stakes for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on Oct. 18.
The Lottery is one of nine stakes races scheduled that day at Charles Town, with the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic serving as the feature of the $1.28 million showcase card for state-bred racehorses.
“We’ll take it one step at a time, and try not to do anything dumb,” Grams said.