Charles Town: William and Mary solid favorite in Leavitt
William and Mary was much the best in last fall’s Henry Mercer Memorial Stakes. Photo by Coady Photography.
by Ted Black
Among the nine West Virginia-bred three-year-old colts and geldings who entered this Saturday’s $50,000 Robert Leavitt Memorial traveling the two-turn distance of seven furlongs at Charles Town are three local products who have aspirations of returning for an encore performance on the West Virginia Breeders Classics night roughly two months later.
Oddly enough, William and Mary, the most proven commodity in the field, is not eligible to the West Virginia Breeders Classics but will likely be supplemented into the $75,000 Jefferson County Stakes for state-bred sophomores at a fee of 10 percent of the purse. Owned, bred and trained by James W. Casey, William and Mary has won four of six starts this year and boasts seven wins and nearly $180,000 banked from 10 starts in his career, so the Windsor Castle gelding out of the Dehere mare Demay has essentially already paid his way into the Classics. He is 9-5 on the morning line for the Leavitt.
While William and Mary is the reigning local state-bred champ among male members of his generation, Dr. Feelgood will put his unblemished record on the line this weekend when he makes his stakes debut in the Leavitt. A sophomore son of Fiber Sonde out of the Polish Numbers mare Happy Numbers, Dr. Feelgood has won all three of his starts for trainer Crystal Pickett and owner Jill Daniel, including his last two at the two-turn distance of 6 1/2 furlongs as the solid favorite on both occasions.
Dr. Feelgood also breezed five furlongs in 1:02.8 on August 7, a move that Pickett applauded prior to his stakes debut.
“He came out of his last race [on July 20] really good,” Pickett said. “He’s been eating up every day and he’s been galloping well. [Jockey] Darius [Thorpe] came over last week to work him and he did five-eighths pretty easily in 1:02 and change. That’s normally a good move over this track. It’s exciting. This is his first stakes race. Mr. Casey’s horse is definitely the one to beat. He’s the best one in there, but I’m looking forward to seeing how well Dr. Feelgood runs this weekend. I’m excited.”
Trainer Jeff Runco will send out Opera Nite for his stakes debut in the Leavitt, although the son of Gattopardo will need to improve off a sixth-place effort against older allowance foes in his most recent outing on July 19. Opera Nite, a winner three times in six starts with earnings just shy of $58,000, was no match for the Tim Grams-trained Runnintoluvya in a two-turn allowance here last month when that four-year-old romped home nearly eight lengths clear by getting the seven panels in a rapid 1:24.96.
Opera Nite had won his two previous allowance events in sharp style for Runco and the Germania Farms homebred has since fired a bullet work of 47 flat for four furlongs on August 10 in preparation for his stakes debut. His defeat at the hands of Runnintoluvya was his first in four attempts going two turns, but with Opera Nite back in with state-bred sophomores this weekend the Runco trainee should be able to make his presence felt in his stakes bow.
Opera Nite is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
Other entrants for the Leavitt include Owen’s Way and Owen’s Mo, both of which are trained by Kevin Joy and owned and bred by James F. Miller; Mr. Jacoby and Party Life, both trained by Alfred Scott for FTF Racing LLC; Martin Man for trainer-owner Adam Ingram; and Jaxbradenrishi, a Robert Cole, Jr. homebred who was second to Dr. Feelgood in their July 20 allowance encounter and has since been moved from trainer Amy Albright to conditioner Claudio Gonzalez’s barn.
The Leavitt is carded as the seventh race on an eight-race card and is scheduled to go postward at 9:49 p.m.