Charles Town: Saturday’s top performances
by Ted Black
While Tequilita might have earned top billing on Saturday night for her methodical victory in the Grade III, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old fillies, a trio of state-bred stars – present and future – perhaps left the most lasting images on local racing fans following their performances in stakes races on the “Race For The Ribbon” undercard at Charles Town.
Three races before Tequilita captured the lucrative Oaks for her second graded stakes victory of the season for trainer Micheal Matz and owner-breeder Dorothy Matz while getting the seven furlongs in 1:26.01, Moonlit Song easily prevailed in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares when she trounced older foes by seven lengths in 1:25.87. The sophomore daughter of Fiber Sonde owned, bred and trained by Tim Grams has been the best state-bred three-year-old filly all season, and Saturday night she thumped older mares while recording a faster time in the Sadie Hawkins than Tequilita posted in the Oaks.
“Through the first half-mile to five-eighths I was getting a little concerned that [jockey] Christian [Hiraldo] wasn’t going to turn her loose,” Grams said on Sunday afternoon. “But when he asked her going into the far turn she just opened up. That was a really, really good field. I was not expecting that at all. The whole way through the stretch I could not take my eyes off of her. She has been good all year, but that was just a tremendous performance. Nearly a day later and I’m still almost speechless.”
Grams had opted for the Sadie Hawkins rather than the Oaks for several reasons. Granted, the Oaks would have been her first try against graded stakes foes and Tequilita arrived with a Grade II victory and a third-place finish in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga. But by running Moonlit Song against older fillies and mares it would give him an indication regarding his best option on the upcoming October 14 West Virginia Breeders Classics card. A top three finish in the Sadie Hawkins would put the $150,000 Cavada, against roughly the same group at the same distance, in play. A subpar performance, meanwhile, would likely mean a spot in the West Virginia Division of Tourism against state-bred sophomore fillies.
“We’re definitely going in the Cavada now,” Grams said. “I think I have to. She’s just so good right now. This was like her test and she passed it with flying colors. If she had not run well, then I would have skipped the Cavada this year and stayed among straight three-year-old fillies. But she was so impressive, I have to go in the Cavada. That’s going to be her 10th start this year and that’s going to be it for her, win or lose. She’s been away from the farm for nearly two years, so I think after the Cavada she’ll get three months off. She needs a break.”
Moonlit Song will head into the Cavada as the solid favorite, having won the Sadie Hawkins as the 7-5 choice despite starting from post 10 against a group of primarily older rivals. She has won two straight stakes and four overall on the season and sports seven wins from nine starts and banked $172,500. She has won eight of 11 tries in her career and earned just over $187,000.
In the two races that preceded the Sadie Hawkins, state-bred juveniles were on display, and a pair of them delivered exceptional performances that perhaps signified they are among the future stars of the West Virginia-bred events.
One race earlier in the $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial for state-bred two-year-olds, William and Mary (Antonio Lopez) remained perfect in his career when he gained command soon after the break, shook off pressure from Punch Your Brother (Katie Davis) on the far turn and drew clear in the lane to a 4 1/2-length score while getting the one-turn dash distance of 4 1/2-furlongs in a sharp 52.02. The Windsor Castle gelding owned, bred and trained by James W. Casey had won at first asking four weeks earlier and came right back with a better performance that will launch him into the Vincent Moscarelli Memorial on WVBC night.
In his debut, William and Mary had rallied from just off the pace while breaking from the outside post to win. He was 2.60-1 and the second choice Saturday evening.
“I always thought he was the best of my two-year-olds this year,” Casey said. “That first start he didn’t break as sharp as I had hoped, but he’d been training really well coming into this race. I got his dam, Demay [by Dehere] from Jeff Runco. He called me up one day a few years ago and said he didn’t have room for her and just gave her to me. She didn’t cost me anything and this was her first foal. I’ve always been high on him and he ran really well both starts. He’s nominated to everything here for West Virginia-breds, including the Moscarelli, the Tri-State Futurity and the West Virginia Futurity.”
In the $50,000 Rachel’s Turn for state-bred two-year-old fillies, Noblame (J.D. Acosta) lived up to her billing as the 2-5 choice, as well. She pressed the pace three-wide down the backside and through the far turn and then drew clear in the lane to a 6 1/2-length score to remain unbeaten in three starts while getting the distance in 52.27. The daughter of Blame trained by Joe Sharp for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch had won her first two starts at Indiana Grand; Saturday she emphatically underlined that she is at the top of the state-bred juvenile filly class at Charles Town, if her connections choose to return for future events.
“A lot of times when those speed horses ship in here from out of town, you have to use them hard right from the gate and a lot of them don’t like that,” Acosta said. “She came out running and I stayed after her a little bit down the backside, but the two jockeys inside me were really pushing and driving. My filly took the lead on the far turn and she was going easily. I never really got after her in the lane.”
Both William and Mary and Noblame posted faster clockings in their respective victories in 4 1/2-furlong stakes than proven older champ Greenway Court, who won the $50,000 It’s Only Money Stakes by a determined neck in 52.63.