As the winner’s circle filled up with well-wishers after Grams Racing Stable’s Runnin’toluvya captured the $300,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic for state-bred 3-year-olds and up in front-running style, it appeared as though trainer Tim Grams wasn’t going to join the celebration, but he ended up taking the long way back.
Grams arrived atop a stable pony, and the two posed with Runnin’toluvya for the victory photo. It was unusual, but seemed rather fitting. Grams knows his horse, and the pony has been a key to keeping the 4-year-old gelding focused on his business from paddock to starting gate and back.
Running without the stable pony, Runnin’toluvya captures the big one on West Virginia’s big night.“The stewards gave me special permission to saddle him with a pony,” said Grams, who won the centerpiece event of the West Virginia Breeders Classics night program for the first time. “The pony has made our life so much easier. Actually, Confucius Say, who won the Classic, was saddled with a pony.”
Confucius Say won the Classic three times – in 2001 and 2002, and again in 2007 after a post-race disqualification. The horse who crossed the wire first that year, Eastern Delite, was ridden by Oscar Flores, who officially won his first Classic aboard Runnin’toluvya the evening of Oct. 13 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
Bred by Leslie Cromer, the son of top West Virginia stallion Fiber Sonde had eight wins in 12 starts entering the Classic, his first start at 11⁄8 miles. He was dominant throughout the year in two-turn sprints, and a sharp victory in the Frank Gall Memorial Stakes Sept. 22 led to his even-money favoritism in the Classic.
The race played out exactly how Grams and Flores planned. Runnin’toluvya broke sharply from post two, nursed a half-length lead through moderate fractions and then gradually pulled away in the lane to defeat Coleswood Farm’s North Atlantic, a clear second choice, by 21⁄2 lengths in 1:52.05 on a track rated fast.
“When we got to the half in 48 seconds, I said, ‘We’ve got it.’ I had no real concern,” said Flores, a winner of more than 1,200 races, many at Charles Town. “I still had plenty of horse at the end and I was pretty confident in him. When I worked him [before the race] he was great. I guess this was my year.”
There was some speculation before the race whether a horse that hadn’t gone three turns at Charles Town previously could defeat a few horses that had done so successfully, but Grams expected Runnin’toluvya would be up to the challenge.
“The way he has trained and given his stride, there was never an indication (11⁄8 miles) would be too long for him,” Grams said. “I told Oscar to try to get a first half in 48 seconds, and if they let him get away with it, he’ll be salty. The horse thrives on competition, and when you hook up with him, he has something left.
“I set the training chart but my wife, Judith, does all the groundwork for the stable. We’ve had a blessed year, so I’m thankful for it all.”
Runnin’toluvya kept it rolling with a win (his seventh in a row) in the A Huevo Stakes at Charles Town Nov. 10.
Part of the big year for the Grams is the talented Moonlit Song, a 4-year-old Fiber Sonde filly who was only a half-length away from giving the stable victories in the two biggest WVBC stakes. The homebred filly took the lead in mid-stretch in the $125,000 West Virginia “Cavada” Breeders Classic Stakes for fillies and mares only to be passed late by heavily favored Late Night Pow Wow, who is owned and trained by Javier Contreras.
A winner of 13 races in 22 starts, Moonlit Song was ridden by Flores, who picked up the mount in late spring of this year.
“Javier has a powerful filly,” Grams said of Late Night Pow Wow, who won for the eighth time in nine starts (with a second). “When she drew up alongside of us I said, ‘I don’t like this.’ You just can’t stop a good filly like that.”
Three-year-old Late Night Pow Wow, also by Fiber Sonde, gave Contreras and local racing fans a major thrill when she overcame a troubled trip to win the Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks Sept. 22. After that victory in open company, Contreras said he would race the filly in the “Cavada” if she came out of the Oaks in good order.
Late Night Pow, one of two winners on West Virginia Breeders Classics night for stallion Fiber Sonde, stretches for the finish to defeat Moonlit Song in the Cavada.
That she did. With Freddie Peltroche –
the only jockey to have ridden her – aboard, Late Night Pow Wow rated early like she did in the Oaks, circled three wide on the final turn and edged past Moonlit Song late to win the seven-furlong stakes in 1:24.99. It was another 61⁄4 lengths back to Anna’s Bandit in third.
“We had good confidence coming into the race,” Contreras said. “We were concerned about Moonlit Song – she has a great trainer behind her – but we still were expecting her to battle back and get the job done. She came out of the [Oaks] really well, so much so that it amazed me. I thought she might be worn out, but that wasn’t the case at all.
“She’s only a 3-year-old, so there could be good things to come. She deserves a shot again [in open company next year], but she needs a little break now.”
Late Night Pow Wow is one of several horses Contreras has privately purchased from John McKee, who stands Fiber Sonde at his Beau Ridge Farm near Charles Town. The stallion’s progeny earnings for 2018 stood at $2.3 million at the end of October, and Late Night Pow Wow is his leading overall earner with $335,720 in her career.
Trainer Jeff Runco, whose Coleswood Farm grabbed second and third behind Runnin’toluvya in the Classic – North Atlantic and Weekend Liberty also were second and third, respectively, last year behind Charitable Annuity in the same race – captured the first and last races on the nine-race WVBC program.
In the $75,000 West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classic Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the Runco-trained Battleground Star took over after the first half-mile in the 61⁄2-furlong event and coasted home a 2-length winner over her stablemate, Amelia Bedelia. Owned and bred by Coleswood Farm, Battleground Star ran her record to 3-for-3 under jockey Arnaldo Bocachica.
The Astrology filly covered the distance in 1:20.45 as the 1-2 favorite in a field of seven.
“She’s a nice filly,” Runco said. “I think she’s still figuring it out and is a little green, but what can you say? She’s three-for-three.”
As for David Raim’s Amelia Bedelia, an equipment change and a shift from 41⁄2-furlong races to 6½ furlongs greatly improved her form. “It was her first time with blinkers and she was stretching out, so I expected her to run better,” the trainer said.
Raim and his family were in the winner’s circle for the final race, however, when T Rex Express registered a dominant gate-to-wire victory in the $67,500 West Virginia Breeders Classic Distaff Stakes under Gerald Almodovar. The fifth winning favorite on the program, T Rex Express defeated Scottish Denis by 21⁄2 lengths in 1:54.81 for 11⁄8 miles, a distance at which she is two-for-two.
T Rex Express and a fist-pumping Gerald Amodovar win the Distaff.
T Rex Express last November won the My Sister Pearl Stakes at Charles Town by 9 lengths at the distance and was expected to be back for that stakes in her next start.
“She really likes the distance, but it’s tough to get races going this long,” Runco said. “She just likes to gallop along out there. As for the night overall, we had a lot of seconds and thirds but everything went very well. It’s all good. We just keep plugging.”
Another West Virginia-bred 2-year-old, the Limehouse gelding Burnin Ring O Fire, won his third race in as many starts in the $75,000 West Virginia Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders Classic Stakes that attracted a full field of 10 geldings. Trained by Ollie Figgins III and ridden by J.D. Acosta, Burnin Ring O Fire defeated a fast-closing Midday Man by a half-length in 1:20.05 for 6½ furlongs.
The winner was bred and is owned by Ray Pennington III, who with his wife, Patricia, operates a modest but productive breeding and racing program. Burnin Ring O Fire in his debut won a maiden special weight event on the turf at Laurel Park in August, and returned in September to win the Henry Mercer Memorial Stakes on the dirt at Charles Town. He has now won at 41⁄2, 51⁄2 and 61⁄2 furlongs.
BURNIN RING O FIRE
“The only thing I can get credit for is putting together a great team,” Ray Pennington said. “Really, Tish deserves a lot of the credit. Every year I’ve only bred two mares, and the last six years we’ve gotten four stakes winners out of them.”
The victory in the Moscarelli Memorial was the 249th for Pennington as an owner, according to Equibase. His horses have earned almost $4.4 million.
Favorites didn’t fare well in the two stakes for 3-year-olds – the $75,000 West Virginia Division of Tourism Breeders Classic Stakes for fillies and the $75,000 West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classic. Jay Armstrong’s Spring Lass, claimed for $10,000 in August, won the filly division, while Michael Miller’s Buff’s Eye View took the open division.
Spring Lass, a Denis of Cork filly also trained by Armstrong, took the early lead and was under hounding pressure for most of the race but survived by a half-length over Dark Empress in 1:26.44 for seven furlongs. Despite having won her two starts for Armstrong – both state-bred allowance races at Charles Town – Spring Lass went off at 9-1 under Luis Batista in a field of 10.
Spring Lass glides home in the Division of Tourism.
“She has done everything right,” Armstrong said. “I only have two horses and needed to replace a horse [that is on the sidelines], and planned to spend $10,000 to $12,000 so I claimed her. She was worth every penny. She’s a little green and she hasn’t reached her peak.”
Armstrong’s late brother, Wayne, rode at Charles Town decades ago, and his father, Robert, trained horses at the West Virginia track for many years. Jay Armstrong was involved in other businesses, but said circumstances led him back to the track.
“This goes right to my heart – it’s about family,” he said. “I knew the racetrack wasn’t guaranteed money, but when the economy crashed, I had some money (to invest). This is my passion, love and purpose other than my family. I’ve been blessed by the best.”
In the West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classic, Buff’s Eye View continued to show his best form on dirt for trainer David Walters. The Buffum gelding finished sixth and fifth, respectively, in his first two starts in maiden races on the grass at Laurel, but picked up his third win in four starts on dirt at Charles Town.
BUFF'S EYE VIEW
At 6-1 under Jose Montano, Buff’s Eye View was steadied early in the 7-furlong race but rallied from last of eight to get up by a head over Opera Night, who also had to overcome early crowding. The winner covered the distance in 1:26.71.
“This was a little close from his last race [on Sept. 29], and he ran a bang-up race last time,” Walters said. “It was only 14 days but I figured he deserved a shot to come back against better competition. Both of the horses were digging in so hard in the stretch. He has done well going [two turns at Charles Town].”
Montano, regularly among the top riders by wins at Charles Town, was the only jockey to win two WVBC races. Like Buff’s Eye View, Follow the Notion, a 7-year-old Great Notion gelding, went from last to first with Montano aboard to win the $75,000 West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association “Onion Juice” Breeders Classic Stakes at seven furlongs.
Follow the Notion, bred by his owner and trainer, Gary Williams Jr., won the same stakes in 2016. Last year he competed in the Classic, but 11⁄8 miles doesn’t appear to be to his liking.
Follow the Notion was 10th and last through the first half-mile, was cut loose seven wide on the far turn and flew home to win by three-quarters of a length over favored Fairweather Friend, who led for most of the way. The time for seven furlongs was 1:26.04.
FOLLOW THE NOTION
“He was flat flying in the stretch,” Williams said. “I figured the pace would be fast, so we should sit where we were and let him roll. He loves 7 furlongs – that’s his game and that’s why we’re here. He might race here one more time and then get the winter off.”
Williams said he is currently breaking Follow the Notion’s full-brother, Slow Motion. Another full-brother, Dr. Tucker, has won two races in six starts. Their dam, Follow the Queen, won once in three starts for Williams who paid $22,000 for the Maryland-bred daughter of Not For Love at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s 2-year-old sale in 2002.
Fairweather Friend is trained by Elizabeth Meehan, who wasn’t that far off from winning with both of her starters on the WVBC program as breeder, owner and trainer. In the previous race, the $67,500 West Virginia Dash for Cash Breeders Classic Stakes at 4½ furlongs, Meehan’s Blue Plaid also led until the final yards before 19-1 Scythe collared her to win by a half-length.
Scythe, a 5-year-old Smarty Jones gelding out of Auntie Inda Attic owned, trained and bred by Leslie Condon in West Virginia, won for the sixth time in his career and finished up in :52.20 for the distance under Victor Rodriguez.
Scythe cuts through the night to win the Dash For Cash.
“He was prepping for the Breeders Classics last year but he stepped on a shoe and needed about nine months to recover,” Condon said. “This year we are really blessed with him. We backed him up after a so-so prep [for another race on the card], and he has done well recently going short.
“Things worked out for us. He can lay close, but with all the speed in the race, we thought we’d let him make a late run. He’s probably a better middle-distance horse, however.
“I was there when he was conceived and I pulled him out of the mare. Her two owners had passed away. This is very special. It’s my first win on Classics night.”
News and Notes
After setting a WVBC wagering record of $2,191,659 in 2017, pari-mutuel handle dropped but was still strong at $1,751,229. Last year there were a few massive minus place and show pools that boosted overall wagering.
As has been the case in recent years because of statutory requirements, the West Virginia Racing Commission Oct. 23 approved racing dates at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races for only the first four months of 2019.
By law, Charles Town must apply for 220 live racing programs even though management and the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have agreed on schedules in the 160-170 day range. There is a similar agreement for 162 programs in 2019, but the track must return to the WVRC and request a reduction in dates.
The first four months of next year call for racing from Jan. 9 through April 20, the date the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic would be run. That program is usually followed by a one-week break before racing resumes for the remainder of the year.
The track will race four days a week –
Wednesdays through Saturdays – with first post time of 7 p.m. Eastern time. First post on April 20 is set for 12:30 p.m.
Barring the need for makeup days, which was the case this year, its expected Charles Town will race three nights a week – Thursdays through Saturdays – from May through December of next year.
$300,000-guaranteed, 3-year-olds and up,
11⁄8 miles, 1:52.05, track fast. Weight: 122 pounds.
RUNNIN’TOLUVYA, gr./ro.g., 4, Fiber Sonde—Lov’emnrun, by Not For Love. Owned by Grams Racing Stable LLC; trained by Timothy Grams; bred by Leslie G. Cromer (W.Va.). $135,000.
North Atlantic, b.g., 5, Ghostzapper—Capricha, by Pleasant Colony. Owned and bred by Coleswood Farm Inc.(W.Va.); trained by Jeff C. Runco. $59,400.
Weekend Liberty, b.g., 5, Midshipman—Hard to Get, by Not For Love. Owned and bred by Coleswood Farm Inc.(W.Va.); trained by Jeff C. Runco. $29,700.
Margins—21⁄2, 31⁄4, 6. Others—Awsome Faith ($18,900), Via Leone ($13,500), Brass Bull ($2,700), Onthestraitanarrow ($2,700), Rocket Road ($2,700), Blazin Luck ($2,700), Jeffery Scott ($2,700). Winning jockey— Oscar Flores.
“Cavada” Breeders Classic
$125,000-guaranteed, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs, 1:24.99, track fast.
LATE NIGHT POW WOW, 119, dk.b./br.f., 3, Fiber Sonde—Holy Pow Wow, by Indian Charlie. Owned, trained by Javier Contreras; bred by John McKee (W.Va.). $60,750.
Moonlit Song, 122, gr./ro.f., 4, Fiber Sonde—Malibu Kitten, by Parker’s Storm Cat. Owned by Grams Racing Stable; trained by Timothy Grams; bred by Timothy and Judith Grams (W.Va.). $24,750.
Anna’s Bandit, 122, dk.b./br.f., 4, Great Notion—Onearmedbandit, by No Armistice. Owned by No Guts No Glory Farm; trained and bred by John Robb (W.Va.). $12,375.
Margins—1⁄2, 61⁄4, 33⁄4. Others—Starlight Flight 122 ($7,875), Jacky’s Notion 122 ($5,625), Ghost Fever 120 ($1,125). Winning jockey—Fredy Peltroche.
Breeders Classic Distaff
$75,000-guaranteed, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 11⁄8 miles, 1:54.81, track fast. Weight: 122 pounds.
T REX EXPRESS, dk.b./br.m., 5, Warrior’s Reward—Chocolate Mon, by Maria’s Mon. Owned by David M. Raim; trained by Jeff C. Runco; bred by Mr. and Mrs. John Link (W.Va.). $33,750.
Scottish Denis, dk.b./br.f., 4, Denis of Cork— Scottish Punch, by My Boy Adam. Owned by Taylor Mountain Farm LLC; trained and bred by James W. Casey (W.Va.). $14,850.
Groomed to Rock, ch.f., 4, Rock Hound—Chelsea Groomstick, by Groomstick. Owned and bred by Randall R. Conrad (W.Va.); trained by Stephen Reggetts. $7,425.
Margins—21⁄2, 21⁄4, 11⁄2. Others—Rock n’ Gold ($4,725), Frozen Tundra ($3,375), Madeitouttaharlan ($675), Spanish Moss ($675), Lies and Scandals ($675), Demay’s Castle ($675), Castleinthemeadow ($675). Winning jockey— Gerald Almodovar.
West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association
$75,000-guaranteed, 3-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs, 1:26.04, track fast. Weight: 122 pounds.
FOLLOW THE NOTION, b.g., 7, Great Notion—Follow the Queen, by Not For Love. Owned, bred and trained by Gary L. Williams Jr. (W.Va.). $33,750.
Fairweather Friend, gr./ro.g., 4, Fiber Sonde—Salony, by Two Smart. Owned, bred and trained by Elizabeth Meehan (W.Va.). $14,850.
Allen’s Castle, b.g., 5, Windsor Castle—Southern Schemer, by Northern Baby. Owned, trained by Lewis Craig Jr.; bred by Taylor Mtn. Farm (W.Va.). $7,425.
Margins—3⁄4, 21⁄2, no. Others—Grumpelstiltskin ($4,725), Help a Brother ($3,375), Royal Blue ($675), The Names Billy ($675), New Windsor ($675), Prince of Windsor ($675), Valley of Gems ($675). Winning jockey—Jose Montano.
West Virginia Dash for Cash
$75,000-guaranteed, 3-year-olds and up,
41⁄2 furlongs, :52.20, track fast.
SCYTHE, 122, dk.b./br.g., 5, Smarty Jones—Auntie Inda Attic, by Suave Prospect. Owned, bred and trained by Leslie Ann Condon (W.Va.). $33,750.
Blue Plaid, 122, gr./ro.g., 4, Fiber Sonde—Acala, by Cherokee Run. Owned, bred and trained by Elizabeth Meehan (W.Va.). $14,850.
Aaron’s Tap, 122, dk.b./br.g., 4, Northern Afleet—Tapforaly, by Pleasant Tap. Owned by Smart Angle; trained by Jeff C. Runco; bred by A & B Bloodstock (W.Va.). $7,425.
Margins—1⁄2, 3⁄4, 11⁄4. Others—Ellie’s Lil Man 122 ($4,725), George Town Cat 122 ($3,375), Unrideabull 122 ($675), Unaquoi 120 ($675), Cat Come Home 122 ($675), Walk to Freedom 122 ($675), Eutaw Street 122 ($675). Winning jockey—Victor Rodriguez.
West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classic
$75,000-guaranteed, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs, 1:26.71, track fast. Weight: 120 pounds.
BUFF’S EYE VIEW, dk.b./br.g., Buffum—I Can See, by Flying Chevron. Owned and bred by Michael J. Miller (W.Va.); trained by David Walters. $35,100.
Opera Nite, gr./ro.g., Gattopardo—Nite Rainbow, by Evening Kris. Owned and bred by Germania Farm Inc. (W.Va.); trained by Jeff C. Runco. $14,850.
Martin Man, b.g., Charitable Man—Ellie Martin, by Olmodavor. Owned and trained by Adam Ingram; bred by James W. Casey (W.Va.). $7,425.
Margins—hd, 21⁄4, 13⁄4. Others—Owen’s Way ($4,725), Rucker ($3,375), Owen’s Mo (DQ from 4th) ($675), Jaxbradenrishi ($675), Wonder How ($675). Winning jockey—Jose Montano.
West Virginia Division
of Tourism Breeders Classic
$75,000-guaranteed, 3-year-old fillies, 7 furlongs, 1:26.44, track fast. Weight: 120 pounds.
Spring Lass, b.f., Denis of Cork—Short Cake Lass, by Goldminers Gold. Owned, trained by Jay Armstrong; bred by James W. Casey (W.Va.). $33,750.
Dark Empress, dk.b./br.f., Soaring Empire—Night Break, by Pure Prize. Owned by Shuler Stables LLC; trained by Gerald A. Coker; bred by Maurice F. Casey III (W.Va.). $14,850.
Im a Tricky One, ch.f., Denis of Cork—Return Trick, by Put It Back. Owned by Armonte Craig; trained by Ollie Figgins III; bred by James W. Casey (W.Va.). $7,425.
Margins—1⁄2, 13⁄4, 1⁄2. Others—See Ya Manana ($4,725), B’s Wild Cork ($3,375), Nellysford ($675), Mountaineer Cat ($675), Hecalledhertrouble ($675), For the Crown ($675), Tiz Johnnie ($675). Winning jockey—Luis Batista.
West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classic
$75,000-guaranteed, 2-year-old fillies, 61⁄2 furlongs, 1:20.45, track fast.
Battleground Star, 118, b.f., Astrology—Sudden Desire, by Hennessy. Owned and bred by Coleswood Farm (W.Va.); trained by Jeff C. Runco. $35,775.
Amelia Bedelia, 118, dk.b./br.f., Fed Biz—French Sadie, by Successful Appeal. Owned by David M. Raim; trained by Jeff C. Runco; bred by Schiano Racing Inc. (W.Va.). $14,850.
Parisian Diva, 118, b.f., Freedom Child—Paris Heiress, by Wildcat Heir. Owned and bred by Melinda Golden (W.Va.); trained by Stacey R. Viands. $7,425.
Margins—2, 21⁄2, 11⁄2. Others—Buffum’s Belle 120 ($4,725), Flatter Me 118 ($3,375), Skylar’s Trick 118 ($675), Sherwood Lady 119 ($675). Winning jockey—Arnaldo Bocachica.
Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders Classic
$75,000-guaranteed, 2-year-olds, 61⁄2 furlongs, 1:20.05, track fast.
BURNIN RING O FIRE, 119, b.g, Limehouse—Nashi, by E Dubai. Owned and bred by Ray M. Pennington III (W.Va.); trained by Ollie L. Figgins III. $33,750.
Midday Man, 119, dk.b./br.g., Charitable Man—Midday Fun, by The Prime Minister. Owned by Taylor Mountain Farm LLC; trained by James W. Casey; bred by James W. Casey and Ann M. Casey (W.Va.). $14,850.
Boundtobegood, 119, dk.b./br.g., Charitable Man—Bound To, by Boundary. Owned and trained by John A. Casey; bred by James W. Casey (W.Va.). $7,425.
Margins—1⁄2, 4, 2. Others—Windsors for It 119 ($4,725), True Crossing 119 ($3,375), Hard Being Me 120 ($675), Bootsie Boy 119 ($675), What a Story 119 ($675), Blushing Owen 119 ($675), Not for Sonde 119 ($675). Winning jockey—J.D. Acosta.