Down the lane.

Down the lane.

by Ted Black

Since its inception in 1987 and certainly in the more recent editions, the annual West Virginia Breeders Classics card at Charles Town has often evolved into a parade of winning favorites.  In fact, over the last six years, 12 of the 24 winners of the evening’s four biggest races have been favorites.

But not Saturday.

The latest renewal of the West Virginia Breeders Classics produced a chaotic bevy of upsets that not even prohibitive favorites such as Lucy’s Bob Boy, In The Fairway and Greenway Court could avoid. After Harlan’s Destiny scored as the 1-5 favorite in the opener, the West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classic Stakes for two-year-old fillies, six straight favorites fell until the venerable Down Town Allen restored some sanity to the occasion by capturing the $200,000 Cavada.

wvbcMareandFoalThe sequence included 12-1 Prince of Windsor, 39-1 Perfect Cross, as well as a pair of 6-1 winners.  By day’s end, four odds-on favorites had fallen.

In the upsets, the favorites came tantalizingly close to success, and five of them settled for second. Prince Of Windsor started the parade of upsets when jockey Travis Dunkelberger steered the gelded son of Windsor Castle to a nose victory over favored Comeonletsplay for a 12-1 upset in the seven-furlong West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classic for three-year-old colts and geldings.

In a sense, that result was hardly a shock. Comeonletsplay has often  played the bridesmaid role in local stakes since the outset of his career, frequently finishing behind Amherst Street. But with that colt sidelined with an injury, Comeletsplay finally figured to have his night in the limelight. But the John A. Casey-trained homebred was foiled by the late bid of Prince Of Windsor, who was coincidentally making   his stakes debut for trainer Ollie Figgins, III. Comeonletsplay opened a clear lead in the stretch but had to settle for second, a neck behind the winner.


“I still can’t believe Comeonletsplay got beat at the wire,” Casey said.  “That was a tough beat, maybe a nose. It goes that way sometime. But it seems like he always gets beat in the photo.

Fortunately, Casey would get immediate atonement in the very next race, however, when his freshmen trainees, Hear The Chatter and One More Time finished one-two in the Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders Classic for two-year-olds. But most onlookers, including Casey, had expected One More Time to prevail. Hear The Chatter, previously an upset winner of the Henry Mercer Memorial, posted the modest 7-5 upset over the 6-5 choice One More Time, with both owned by Kristy Petty.

“I really thought both colts would run well, but I thought the other one would win,” Casey said.

In the one-turn Dash For Cash for older sprinters, the 2013 winner, Greenway Court, failed to deliver on his 1-2 promise when he was overhauled late by 6-1 Halter Off. Greenway Court had won the local prep, the It’s Only Money, while Halter Off had settled for third in that event. But on a night filled with upsets, Halter Off continued the trend and wore down Greenway Court in the lane for a neck score in 51.70 for the 4 1/2-furlongs.  Halter Off paid $14.80 to win.

One race later in the seven-furlong West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association Onion Juice for older horses, not only did In The Fairway fail as the 3-5 choice for trainer Jeff Runco, he was handed the biggest upset of the night. Perfect Cross, a Bowie-based runner for owner-trainer Carlyne Tapscott, rallied from well off the pace in the final quarter-mile to nail In The Fairway at the wire by a nose for a 39-1 shocker. It was his first win in 10 starts this year for Tapscott.

“We’ve been running against these horses the last couple of years,” Tapscott said. “I actually thought we had a pretty good chance tonight. His last couple of races were good for him. He just likes to sit back and make one big run. That’s what he did tonight. When he hit the wire, I didn’t know if he had won but my daughter looked over at me and said he did.”

[boxify cols_use =”3″ cols =”6″ position =”right” box_spacing =”5″ padding =”3″ background_color =”gray” background_opacity =”10″ border_width =”1″ border_color =”blue” border_style =”solid” height =”750″ ]WEST VIRGINIA BREEDERS CLASSICS WINNERS

  • West Virginia Breeders Classic — Russell Road, trained by James Casey for Mark Russell, bred in WV by Robert Lloyd
  • WVBC Cavada — Down Town Allen, trained, owned, and bred in WV by John A. Casey
  • WV Thoroughbred Breeders Association Onion Juice — Perfect Cross, trained and owned by Carylne Tapscott, bred in WV by Sherwood Bryant
  • West Virginia Breeders Classic Distaff — Flirting Song, trained, owned and bred in WV by John D. McKee
  • WV Division of Tourism Breeders Classic — Cat Thats Grey, trained, owned and bred in WV by John D. McKee
  • WV Dash for Cash Breeders Classic — Halter Off, trained by Busanda Armstrong for Marsha Laurendine, bred in WV by James W. Casey
  • Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders Classic Hear the Chatter, trained by John Casey for owner/breeder Kristy Petty
  • WV Lottery Breeders Classic — Prince of Windsor, trained by Ollie Figgins, III for Carisa Figgins, bred in WV by Ollie and Carisa Figgins
  • WV Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classic S. — Harlan’s Destiny, trained by Wayne Catalano for owner/breeder James Miller[/boxify]

Runco, on the wrong end of a photo with In the Fairway, repeated the feat in the West Virginia Breeders Classic Distaff, a 1 1/8 mile affair for older fillies and mares.  His Spa Creek lost by a head to John McKee’s Flirting Song.

John McKee continued the upset parade, sending out Flirting Song and then Cat Thats Grey to score in the seven-furlong West Virginia Division of Tourism. Not only does McKee own and train both fillies, he also bred both.  What’s more, he stands the stallion Fiber Sonde, the sire of both and one of the rising successful sires in West Virginia who has already produced the talented Hidden Canyon.

Fiber Sonde’s two wins on the night were surpassed among sires only by the three registered by Windsor Castle.

On Saturday night Flirting Song posted a mild 3-1 upset in the Distaff by winning a four-horse blanket photo in 1:55.55 for the one-mile and one-eighth affair. Then in the very next race, Cat Thats Grey simply refused to be overtaken in the lane by favored Chrome Mine in a prolonged duel as they completed the distance in 1:26.17. It was the fourth win in eight starts this year for Cat Thats Grey, pushing her seasonal earnings over $100,000.

“Anytime you can win one of these stakes with one of your homebreds it really makes it special,” said Mckee, still walking with a cane two months after having hip surgery. “With both of them, I was stretching them out a little bit so I really had to adjust their training. We started working them both a little harder and they both responded.”

After Down Town Allen captured the Cavada for her 24th victory in 40 lifetime starts to restore a hint of order to the chaos, Russell Road capped the night of upsets by upending 1-2 choice Lucy’s Bob Boy in a dramatic, emotional end to the card. Russell Road had chased Lucy’s Bob Boy in several preps and at the eighth pole on Saturday he seemed destined for minor spoils again, but the eight-year-old Wheaton gelding simply refused to yield and overhauled Lucy’s Bob Boy at the wire

“Usually I’m not speechless,” said owner Mark Russell. “But that effort tonight was incredible. He looked beaten at the eighth pole and he just kept coming. That was a gutsy win. Of his three wins, this one is the most rewarding. I wish Mr. Casey had been able to make it tonight. But I know he was watching at home and is just as happy as I am.”

Ted Black, a Maryland native, has covered racing — flat and harness, in West Virginia and in Maryland — for more than two decades. He is president of the Maryland Racing Media Association.