Stories that mattered in ’18: Late Night Pow Wow runs to prominence

by | Dec 27, 2018 | Breaking, Features, Top Stories, West Virginia, WV Racing

Late Night Pow Wow upset the G3 Charles Town Oaks. Photo by Coady Photography.

Over the next several days, we will revisit a number of 2018 “stories that mattered” in Mid-Atlantic racing and breeding.

by Ted Black

When Late Night Pow Wow won the Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks and then followed that up with victories in the Cavada at Charles Town and the $100,000 Willa On The Move Stakes at Laurel Park for trainer Javier Contreras, her triumphs briefly showcased the exploits of West Virginia-breds against open company.

While Late Night Pow Wow may not have established a precedent with her tallies, she did spark memories of past West Virginia-breds who were able to successfully tackle graded stakes foes at other ovals.

In the moments after Late Night Pow Wow captured the Charles Town Oaks, Contreras described that victory as “my Kentucky Derby.” It was Contreras’ first graded stakes victory as a trainer.

But the sophomore daughter of Fiber Sonde wasn’t done.

She returned three weeks later to prevail over four-year-old Moonlit Song in the WVBC Cavada and then ventured to Laurel Park to score by five lengths in the $100,000 Willa On The Move for her new owners who opted to retain Contreras as her conditioner. It was her fourth straight stakes tally and her eighth straight win overall and she now sports nine wins from 10 career outings with earnings of more than $400,000.

How good might she be? Of course, that’s a question that 2019 will help to answer, but one clue might be in how salty the field was in the Willa On the Move; despite her recent graded tally, Late Night Pow Wow went off as the fourth choice in the field of seven that included graded winner Ms Locust Point, talented Shimmering Aspen, formful Liz’s Cable Girl, and even her longtime Charles Town rival Moonlit Song.

Onlookers might have viewed the West Virginia-bred winner’s tallies against open foes as shocking, but over the last three decades such moments have dotted the landscape. In fact, Late Night Pow Wow is not the only West Virginia-bred distaffer to win a graded stakes this year. Ruby Notion, a five-year-old daughter of Great Notion trained by Darrin Miller, took the Grade 3, $400,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint on the turf before running fourth against male rivals in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. Ruby Notion has banked nearly $500,000 in her career and boasts open stakes wins on both turf and dirt. Unlike the CT-based Late Night Pow Wow, Ruby Notion has not made a start at Charles Town — not uncommon for the top WV-breds over the years.

Undoubtedly, the two most talented West Virginia-breds of all-time, Soul of the Matter and Afternoon Deelites, both sons of Private Terms, were both able to garner Grade 1 stakes victories, and both earned over $1 million. Soul of the Matter banked over $2 million, still most among state-breds. Of course, locals are quick to point out that neither Soul of the Matter nor Afternoon Deelites made any starts at Charles Town. Nevertheless, both horses trained by Richard Mandella and bred by composer Burt Bacharach’s Blue Seas Music did more than their fair share to put West Virginia breeding on the map. Soul of the Matter concluded his career by running second to Cigar in the inaugural edition of the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba, capping a career in which he won seven times, including the Grade 1 Super Derby, finished fourth twice in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and fifth in the Kentucky Derby, and won three Grade 2 events.


Afternoon Deelites, a Grade 1 winner at ages two and three, concluded his career by running second in the prestigious, Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park just over a year after running eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

In relatively close proximity to the exploits of Soul of the Matter and Afternoon Deelites, local stars Coin Collector and Rachel’s Turn made their presence known in the early days of the West Virginia Breeders Classics and then were able to take their talents on the road. Coin Collector won at first asking over the Charles Town strip by 10 lengths and then immediately ventured elsewhere, taking the $75,000 Primer Breeder Cup at Laurel Park before finishing third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. Coin Collector made three more starts at Charles Town at age two and won all of them, taking the West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classic, the Tri-State Futurity and the West Virginia Futurity before running second in the Cumberland County Stakes at the Meadowlands.

Late Night Pow Wow

Late Night Pow Wow cruised home to win the Willa on the Move. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

One year before Coin Collector made his career debut, Rachel’s Turn triumphed in her career debut for owner-breeder-trainer John McKee, won an allowance event at Monmouth Park two starts later and returned to Charles Town to win another allowance and then capture the Budweiser Breeders Classic [now the Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classic]. She would go on to win the Morris County Stakes at the Meadowlands as a sophomore and eventually owned wins at Philadelphia Park (now Parx), Atlantic City, and Laurel, as well as Charles Town and Monmouth.,

While Ruby Notion and Soul of the Matter have a trio of fourth-place finishes between them in Breeders Cup events, one West Virginia-bred did even better. Giovanni Boldini, bred by Buck Woodson, Jr. of Onion Juice fame, sold for $190,000 as a weanling and later went for $675,000 as a yearling and spent the early part of his career in trainer Aidan O’Brien’s barn. He made just one of his 17 career starts in the United Stakes, finishing second in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in 2013. That vaulted him to the head of the class among West Virginia-breds competing in Breeders Cup events.

A Huevo may have had the most bizarre career among state-bred runners who ventured to Charles Town and earned a Grade 1 victory elsewhere. A gelded son of Cool Joe trained by Michael Dickinson for owner Mark Hopkins, A Huevo won the WV Breeders Classic by nearly eight lengths while setting a new track record for nine furlongs at age three but was disqualified for a positive. He didn’t make it back to the races until age seven — four years later — and in his third start back won the Grade 1 Frank DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park. The following year he won the WV Breeders Classic for a second time — this time by 19 lengths. As a nine-year-old, he broke down as the odds-on choice in the Classic.

Of course, many other West Virginia-breds have made their names — or part of their names — elsewhere. Runners like Rachel’s Turn, Russell Road, and Charitable Annuity all enjoyed success both before the home fans and on the road.

With her wins in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks and then, at Laurel Park, in the Willa On the Move, Late Night Pow Wow served notice that she might — perhaps sooner than later — go on to give trainer Javier Contreras even more “Derbies” in the years to come.