WVBC “Win & You’re In” stakes part of CT Classic day
2015 Cavada winner Cuppa Mocha Mojo. Photo by Coady Photography.
by Ted Black
While the Grade 2, $1.25 million Charles Town Classic will undoubtedly take center stage this Saturday afternoon at Charles Town, the track will also offer a pair of stakes races for West Virginia-breds that will follow the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” format and launch winners into their accompanying stakes on West Virginia Breeders Classics night October 8.
This Saturday’s Original Gold Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares will be a “win & you’re in” springboard into the $200,000 Cavada for those distaffers this fall, while the Confucius Say will send the winner into the Onion Juice Breeders Classic, for three-year-olds and up, on the same card. Both are seven furlong events.
Cuppa Mocha Mojo won last year’s Cavada, and while she has not started since, the David Walters trainee has posted a pair of workouts over the strip. Last year’s Onion Juice winner, Help a Brother, was a good second for trainer Lewis Craig, Jr. in his season debut April 13.
West Virginia Breeders Classics President Carol Holden noted that the main impetus behind the format change was to offer local owners and trainers an added incentive to nominate horses for the Classics and to give the undercard stakes an added boost.
Of course, the format may also provide horsemen a powerful incentive to enter these state-bred stakes. Last year, two WVBC races — the Cavada and the Classic itself — were oversubscribed.
“In the first year of the West Virginia Breeders Classics we only had a total of 154 horses nominated to all the races,” Holden said. “But in most of the previous decade we over 400 nominees each year, with 460 in both 2006 and 2007. We’ve been holding steady in the 300-plus range since 2010, although we topped 400 in 2013. Nationally, foals are down, but we’ve held our own. Of course, we would like to have more, but it all depends on the number of foals each year, too. Right now, over 20 states and Canada get our brochures.”
Initially, there were two payments needed to keep a horse eligible to the WV Breeders Classics, an initial $100 fee due by December 31 of the foaling year, followed by a second $100 fee six months later. During the 1990’s, however, the WVBC changed that plan to one payment of $250 due by March 31 of the horse’s yearling year. Since then the number of nominees has not fluctuated much, and Holden does not envision another change to the initial payment process.
Holden noted that the “Win & You’re In” victory will cover the nomination/starting fee but will not impact the supplemental fees if the winner of either the Original Gold or the Confucius Say is not eligible to the Classics. Since 2011, horses that did not make the initial $250 payment by March 31 as yearlings can still be supplemented into one of the West Virginia Breeders Classics at a set fee of 10% of the purse. Three horses ponied up the supplemental fee in 2011, but none has done so in subsequent years.
“It took a while for that change to take place,” Holden said of instituting a supplemental fee. “A lot of people on the board [of the West Virginia Breeders Classics] are owners and breeders and they figured if they made their [nominating] payment, then everyone else should. We had three horses take advantage of the supplemental fee process that first year in 2011, and one of them nominated to the Classic [at a cost of $50,000]. I think they basically broke even that night. But since then no one else has supplemented, which I guess is a good thing.”
Saturday’s Original Gold and Confucius Say stakes will be the only state-bred events this spring that will offer the “Win & You’re In” incentive, but there will be a host of others in the summer and in the weeks leading up to the Classics. The Robert Leavitt Memorial for WV-bred three-year-olds on August 6 will be linked to the West Virginia Lottery; the Sadie Hawkins for fillies and mares on Aug. 13 will send the winner to the Distaff; the Frank Gall [older males] on Aug. 20 will be the springboard to the Classic; the Sylvia Bishop for three-year-old fillies on Aug. 27 grants a berth in the Division of Tourism; and then the Rachel’s Turn (2yo fillies), Henry Mercer (two-year-olds) and It’s Only Money [older horses] on Sep. 17 will catapult the winners into the Triple Crown Nutrition, Vincent Moscarelli Memorial and Dash For Cash Breeders Classics, respectively.
“There are numerous other stakes later this year that will have the ‘Win & You’re In’ designation, and it will be the same format,” Holden said. “The nomination/entry fee for that race will be covered, but not the supplemental fee. If a horse is not eligible [to the Classics] they will still have to pay the supplemental fee. I think in those other races, it will give them a lot more incentive to enter and to make the initial payment.”
Holden noted that the West Virginia Breeders Classics will maintain a low profile this Saturday on Charles Town Classic Day, although the Original Gold and the Confucius Say, which is expected to feature the return of defending hero and longtime local favorite, Russell Road, will institute the “Win & You’re In” format for the first time.
“That day is really about the Classic,” Holden said. “I’m hoping to make it there for the stakes. I know we’ll have a number of owners and breeders there, but that’s really a day for the Classic and those older horses coming in for the big race.”