William and Mary impresses in Coin Collector score
by Ted Black
In addition to the quartet of open stakes on the undercard of the Grade II, $1.2 million Charles Town Classic were several state-bred stakes that allowed numerous local runners the chance to shine and several of them did so in a big way on a day when the spotlight was not necessarily aimed at them.
Two races before the Classic, in the latest renewal of the $35,000 Coin Collector Stakes for state-bred three-year-olds going one turn, William and Mary (Antonio Lopez) lived up to his role as the 2-5 favorite when he overcame post 10 by breaking alertly to duel with Dionysus Chalice down the backside and through the far turn and then drew clear from that one and Opera Nite to a five-length score while getting the 4 1/2-furlongs in 52.31.
A gelded sophomore son of Windsor Castle owned, bred and trained by James W. Casey, William and Mary recorded his second win in three starts this year and notched his fifth tally in seven career outings and pushed his lifetime earnings past $136,000. He began his three-year-old campaign by capturing the belated edition of the Tri State before running fourth to Still Having Fun in the $100,000 Frank Whitely, Jr. Memorial Stakes at Laurel Park in late January.
“He’s got a lot of early speed and I wanted to get him clear of some of the other horses,” Lopez said. “When I asked him a little on the far turn he really responded. This horse has so much ability. He’s very fast and he’s versatile. I think he’s going to be better when they start running longer races. He’s always shown that he has talent and he has so much potential.”
In fact, owner-breeder-trainer James W. Casey has always been especially high on William and Mary since he began training last summer and has even favorably compared him to two of his prominent local trainees, Russell Road and Charitable Annuity, who own a quartet of West Virginia Breeders Classic crowns between them. On Saturday afternoon the longtime local conditioner’s opinion of his latest homebred prodigy was validated when William and Mary drew clear in the final furlong.
“When he first started training down last summer, he was well beyond what Charitable Annuity or Russell Road had done at the same point in their careers,” Casey said. “He’s got plenty of speed, but I don’t think 4 1-2 [furlongs] is his best distance. I know he wants to go longer. I expect he’ll have a really good year, especially in the two-turn stakes here in the summer and fall. I’m still upset that I never made him eligible to the Breeders Classics. But he’s got plenty of races in the summer and fall and if he’s really good I’ll supplement him to one of the stakes on Breeders Classics night.”
One race earlier on the card, in the $35,000 Down Town Allen Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, Anna’s Bandit (Xavier Perez) continued the perfect start to her four-year-old campaign when she disposed of T Rex Express midway on the far turn, shied away from the starting gate momentarily tucked into the infield past the eighth pole, then shifted gears in the final 100 yards en route to a four-length score as the 4-5 favorite in her local debut.
A four-year-old daughter of Great Notion bred and trained by John (Jerry) Robb for the No Guts No Glory Farm (Gina Robb), Anna’s Bandit notched her second straight stakes victory and her third straight tally of the season and fourth straight overall after getting the 6 1/2-furlongs in 1:20.10. T Rex Express held the place spot as the even-money second choice, but morning line favorite and reigning Cavada heroine Moonlit Song was scratched earlier on Saturday morning after owner-trainer Tim Grams disliked what he saw from his talented homebred.
“She really didn’t have any energy and she didn’t eat up in the morning and I decided to scratch her,” Grams said. “She had a little heat in one of her feet, but she just didn’t act right this morning. I didn’t want to lean on to make this race and I know she’ll be fine.”
Grams had indicated previously that he would have little trouble bypassing the Down Town Allen and waiting for the $50,000 Fancy Buckles Stakes on May 21. Grams owned and trained Fancy Buckles and Moonlit Song won the one-turn stakes race last year at age three.
“I wanted to run her here and see if she could handle the track and the local mares,” Robb said, bypassing a possible start in the $100,000 Primonetta Stakes at Laurel that same afternoon. Robb also intimated that he intends to aim Anna’s Bandit for the Cavada over the Charles Town strip later this fall. He had mixed emotions about the late withdrawal of Moonlit Song, but much praise for Perez who has guided her to four straight victories.
“She’s not really a big filly, so I wasn’t that concerned about her going two turns,” Perez said. “She’s got enough early speed to be in the race early. I wanted to sit just behind those two local fillies and then see what she could do going into the far turn. She made the lead easily and then ducked away from the [starting] gate [in the infield] a little bit. But when she got past the gate she really finished up strong. Wherever she goes next, that’s where I’m going to go.”
Several races earlier on the card, Follow the Notion (Jose Montano) displayed his usual late kick when he rallied from well off the early pace and overhauled 3-5 favorite North Atlantic in the final 100 yards to capture the inaugural running of the $35,000 Lucy’s Bob Boy Stakes for state-bred older males. A seven-year-old Great Notion gelding owned, bred and trained by Gary Williams, Jr., Follow the Notion recorded his third straight victory and now owns a solid 8-4-4 slate and nearly $200,000 banked from 26 lifetime tries after getting the seven panels in 1:27.04.
“After the way he raced his last two starts, I didn’t think he could get beat,” Williams said. “He won those last two races so easily. I told anyone that asked they could go to the bank and bet him. He’s even better this year than he was when he won the Onion Juice [in 2016]. His rider wants to skip the Onion Juice this year and go in the Classic again. I asked him if he wanted to pass on a sure $60,000 and he said we should go for the big race in the fall. There’s just not a lot for him until the stakes races later this summer, so I’m not sure where he’ll go next.”
One earlier on the card, Noblame (J.D. Acosta) and 4-5 favorite Late Night Pow Wow (Fredy Peltrouche) virtually staged a match race from the outset and through the far turn and well into the stretch where Noblame finally emerged victorious following the prolonged duel. A sophomore daughter of Blame trained by Joe Sharp for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, Noblame ended a three-race skid by capturing the $50,000-added It’s Binn Too Long Stakes in 53.87 for the 4 12/-furlongs for her second stakes tally and fourth win in seven career outings.
Late Night Pow Wow was a gritty second in her stakes debut and did little harm to her reputation while suffering the first setback in her brief, three-race career. Bound to Windsor (Christian Hiraldo), the talented Casey homebred filly who bested William and Mary last fall in the split West Virginia Futurity, settled for third in her seasonal debut. Last fall she had also upset Noblame in the Triple Crown Nutrition BC then ended the campaign with stakes tallies in the West Virginia Futurity and the Eleanor Casey Memorial, those last three stakes scores going two turns here.