Favorites dominate WV-bred races on CT Classic undercard
Aaron’s Tap. Photo by Allison Janezic for The Racing Biz.
On a day when the Grade II, $1 million Charles Town Classic for older horses highlighted the card on Saturday afternoon at Charles Town, a number of local owners, trainers and jockeys had their chance to shine in a quartet of $50,000 West Virginia-bred stakes races for horses of varying ages in both one- and two-turn events over a fast track.
Right at the midway point of the card, Anna’s Bandit (Xavier Perez) easily lived up to her role as the 3-10 choice when she stalked the early leader T Rex Express (Gerald Almodovar) through the clubhouse turn and down the backside, surged to command entering the far turn the drew clear in the lane under confident handling from Perez for a four-length score. A five-year-old Great Notion mare trained by John [Jerry] Robb for owner No Guts No Glory Farm [Gina Robb, et al], Anna’s Bandit remained perfect from three starts this year with her second straight stakes triumph by getting the seven furlongs in 1:25.49.
“I really could not have asked for a better trip,” said Perez of Anna’s Bandit, who now owns 10 wins and over $400,000 banked from 24 career outings. “She broke really good and I was able to sit just off [T Rex Express] down the backside. When I asked her to run she really responded. She’s just got another gear when you ask her. She’s going to do really good wherever she runs. She can run here, run in Maryland, run short, run long, it doesn’t matter. She’s really a pleasure to ride.”
Anna’s Bandit has spent much of her career competing in Maryland, but she has now won three times in five tries over the Charles Town strip, including a victory last fall in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes over Moonlit Song, the 2017 West Virginia-bred horse of the year owned and trained by Tim Grams who has since been retired. Anna’s Bandit was third behind Late Night Pow Wow and Moonlit Song in the Cavada Stakes last fall, but she has also been successful in Maryland-sired events at Laurel and has numerous options ahead of her.
One race later in the $50,000 Confucius Say Stakes for state-bred older runners traveling seven furlongs, Aaron’s Tap (Arnaldo Bocachica) lived up to his billing as the 4-5 choice when he gained command entering the clubhouse turn, rebuffed pressure from New Windsor down the backside, opened a clear lead on the far turn and held safe North Atlantic and Mean Bean through the lane for a three-length score in 1:25.38. A five-year-old Northern Afleet gelding trained by Jeff Runco for owner Smart Angle [Daniel Ryan], Aaron’s Tap notched his first win in two starts this year and now owns 11 wins and $215,000 banked from 19 lifetime outings.
“I was a little surprised the six horse [New Windsor] wanted to stay with me through the first half-mile,” Bocachica said. “I know that horse has some speed, but he doesn’t belong trying to run with my horse early. When I shook loose from him, I knew that I still had plenty of horse left. This horse always loves this track. That first start back [in the Russell Road prep] he had a rough trip. But today he was really good.”
Aaron’s Tap and North Atlantic gave Runco a one-two finish in the race. Aaron’s Tap won six of 10 starts last year, three of them in one-turn sprints including the $35,000 Last Enchanment Stakes. North Atlantic has proven productive in two- and three-turn events locally, winning a pair of nine-furlong allowance events and running second twice to Runnin’toluvya in both the $350,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic and the $50,000 A Huevo at one-mile and an eighth.
“I was glad to see Aaron’s Tap bounce back from that first start,” Runco said. “That was a really rough race. He came out of it good and today he made the front and finished well. I was surprised to see him get pressure early [from New Windsor]. I don’t know what that other rider was thinking. North Atlantic ran well in there. He’s always done better going three turns up here.”
One race before the Original Gold, Vic’s Pick (Luis Batista) lived up to his billing as the 8-5 favorite when he overhauled a game and gritty Best Shot in the final 100 yards for a neck score in the $50,000 Coin Collector Stakes for state-bred three-year-old colts and geldings. A sophomore son of Fiber Sonde owned, bred and trained by Michael Sterling, Vic’s Pick recorded his third straight victory and now sports four wins and $70,000 banked from five lifetime outings. All five of his starts have come in one-turn sprints over the local strip, including Saturday afternoon’s stakes tally in 52.31 for the 4 1/2-furlongs.
Then one race after the Charles Town Classic, Parisian Diva (J.D. Acosta) easily lived up to her role as the 3-5 favorite in the $50,000 It’s Binn Too Long Stakes for state-bred three-year-old fillies when she edged clear in the final furlong to a two-length score in 52.17 for the 4 1/2-furlongs. A sophomore daughter of Freedom Child trained by Stacey Viands for owner-breeder Melinda Golden, Parisian Diva notched her third straight score and now sports four wins and over $100,000 banked from six career outings. She also survived a jockey’s objection and a brief inquiry to remain the official.