While much of the focus earlier in the day had been on West Virginia’s other thoroughbred track when Mountaineer Park hosted the Grade II, $750,000 West Virginia Derby on a stakes-laden card, Charles Town hosted its first of numerous prep races for the October 20 West Virginia Breeders Classics that night.
Saturday’s feature was the $50,000 Robert G. Leavitt Memorial Stakes for state-breed three-year-olds going a distance of seven furlongs and the two-turn affair proved to be quite formful. Of the four horses that went postward at single-digit odds, three of them completed the trifecta.
Fresh off his victory in the June 30 running of the Coin Collector Stakes here, Lucy’s Bob Boy was made the solid even-money favorite, while Allen Did It was the 4-1 second choice. Primary Account, a recent allowance winner here was the 5-1 third choice, while Coin Collector runner-up Paco Smart was the 6-1 fourth choice. Three of them lived up to their backing.
Soon after the gate opened in the Leavitt, Paco Smart gained command from between horses and Lucy’s Bob Boy took up the chase to race second through the clubhouse turn. Allen Did It did not show much interest early and offered litte late, but Primary Account would eventually make his presence known with his patented late run.
Paco Smart led the field down the backside and into the far turn, but after biding his time just off the leader Lucy’s Bob Boy surged to command at the top of the lane and then edged clear late to a two-length score in 1:27.10 for the seven panels. Paco Smart just lasted for the place spot as Primary Account rallied three-wide on the far turn and through the lane to just miss the runner-up in another good showing.
Lucy’s Bob Boy has won three of five starts this year and five of seven starts in his career and earned over $135,000 along the way and rates the top state-bred three-year-old at this point. Paco Smart has finished second twice in three starts this year, but may have peaked last year as a freshman when he won three of six starts and earned well over $100,000. Primary Account continues to improve and has won three times and been third four times from eight starts for trainer Crystal Pickett and owner-breeder Francis Daniel.
Two races before the Leavitt, Strong Shaft delivered a very impressive performance in his career debut while taking a two-turn maiden special weight event. Reserved well off the early pace and overlooked at 7-1, Strong Shaft trailed the field entering the clubhouse turn, began passing horses down the backside, drew alongside the leader through the far turn and finally wore that one down late to score by a neck in 1:28.34 at first asking.
A sophomore son of Mineshaft trained by Larry Murray for owner-breeder Howard Bender, Strong Shaft had been training well for his career debut at Laurel Park but his stellar rally perhaps caught his connections off guard. Strong Shaft not only circled the field but passed his rivals with a sustained bid over the last three furlongs, a difficult task for even the most seasoned veterans let alone a horse making his career debut. Bender was recently selected as the Humphrey S. Finney Award winner by the Maryland Racing Writers Association for his lifetime achievements in Maryland racing.
Earlier in the day a pair of horses who have thrived in one-turn sprints in recent years competed in varying stakes races at two different tracks and both settled for minor spoils.
Immortal Eyes, who has won the last three editions of the Charles Town Dash and holds the 4 1/2-furlong track record over this oval courtesy of her 50.09 score in the 2011 Webb Snyder Stakes, finished second as the odds-on choice in the $100,000 West Virginia Chairman’s Cup at Mountaineer Park. He had won the previous edition of the same stakes last year.
A seven-year-old Greatness gelding trained by Damon Dilidovico for owner Robert Abbo, Immortal Eyes has won twice in four starts this year and finished second once and earned nearly $100,000. Immortal Eyes owns a solid 11-9-3 slate and now banked over $560,000 from 33 lifetime starts. Immortal Eyes spends his mornings at the Bowie Training Center in Maryland, but he appears to thrive at tracks in West Virginia.
That same afternoon at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, Ju Jitsu Jax finished a sharp second in the $100,000 My Frenchman Stakes on the grass. A regular in some of the one-turn sprint stakes at Charles Town, Ju Jitsu Jax delivered one of the best performances of his career before finally being overhauled late by the classy Chamberlain Bridge, the 2010 Breeders Cup Turf Sprint hero who has carved out a stellar career in stakes races on the lawn throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.