Runnin’toluvya, Anna’s Bandit loom large in WVBC features
Annas Bandit. Photo by Allison Janezic for The Racing Biz.
With multiple-graded stakes winner Late Night Pow Wow bypassing a chance to defend her title in the $125,000 Cavada this Saturday night, the spotlight on the West Virginia Breeders Classics card this weekend will fall on Runnin’toluvya, a graded stakes winner in his own right who will be seeking to defend his title in the $300,000 West Virgnia Classic, the penultimate race on the all-stakes program.
Runnin’toluvya, who will head into the Classic this weekend seeking to end a modest, two-race slide, has been installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite in a 10-horse field. The five-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding trained by Tim Grams and owned by his and wife Judy’s Grams Racing Stable LLC, was second as the 3-10 choice in the Frank Gall Memorial last out and fifth in the Grade III Phillip Iselin at Monmouth Park in his prior outing. But his success in three-turn events over the local strip, which includes a victory in the Grade II, $1 million Charles Town Classic in April, will be tough to overlook.
“He’s doing really good,” Grams said one day before Runnin’toluvya drew post six for the Classic. “In his last race, he started looking around right before they sprung them loose. That was all it took. He got off slow and had to chase [Penguin Power] from that point and he was running hard just to get up for second. It was just one of those things that can happen in horse racing. But he came out of it great and he’s doing really good. Last year, the only question with him was whether or not he could get the distance.”
Last fall, Runnin’toluvya won the West Virginia Breeders Classic during a 10-race win streak that included a handy score in the Frank Gall and carried over into the spring and the Charles Town Classic. He has won all three of his local outings at the three-turn distance of one-mile and one-eighth, sports three wins and almost $620,000 banked from five starts this year, and 13 victories and roughly $950,000 in earnings from 19 career tries. A first- or second-place finish in the Classic would elevate his career earnings past $1 million, which would be a first for any Grams trainee.
“I’ve never had one of those before,” Grams said of millionaire trainees. “I’ve had some nice horses like Fancy Buckles and Moonlit Song, but he’s well past them. We’re just hoping for a good break and a good trip and then hopefully he will run his race from there. He’s been doing so good. I think after this race, win or lose, we’ll kind of play it by ear. We might come back for the A Huevo or we might just take him back to the farm, He’s probably due for a long break at the farm after all his races this year.”
Looking to upend Runnin’toluvya in the Classic this weekend is another Jeff Runco trainee, North Atlantic (3-1), who has been knocking on the door in the main event. In each of the past two years North Atlantic has finished second in the Classic, and he brings a solid 15-12-7 slate and nearly $500,000 bankroll from 38 career tries. Another Runco trainee, Opera Nite (8-1), who has seven wins and nearly $150,000 in career purse earnings, will join North Atlantic in the quest to upset Runnin’toluvya in the Classic, while Penguin Power looms the 3-5 choice in the $75,000 Onion Juice earlier on the card.
“They’re both doing really good,” Runco said. “North Atlantic is one of those horses that always tries hard. If he runs his race, he’ll be right there. I don’t know if either of them can beat Tim’s horse, but you never know in racing. They’re both coming into it really well. North Atlantic loves this track and he loves the distance. I know he’s going to run his race, but I don’t know if he can beat Tim’s horse. But we’re going to put him in there and try.”
While many onlookers might be disappointed that Late Night Pow Wow will not be on hand to defend her title in the $175,000 Cavada following a troubled sixth in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters that prompted trainer Javier Contreras to give her some additional time off, trainer John [Jerry] Robb certainly seemed okay with her absence.
Robb will send out Anna’s Bandit, fresh off her second straight win in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins for state-bred fillies and mares, as the five-year-old Great Notion mare seeks to improve on her third-place finish in the Cavada last fall behind Late Night Pow Wow and Moonlit Song, who was retired in the spring. Anna’s Bandit is 3-5 on the morning line.
“If [Late Night Pow Wow] was going in there, then I was going to wait for the Maryland Million,” said Robb, who has not ruled out running Anna’s Bandit back in the Maryland Million one week later as he did the year before. “I wasn’t going to try to beat her up there. But now I’m going in there and hoping for the best. She’s always done well up there. She ran a good race in the last stakes up there. She came out of it good.”
Anna’s Bandit has won six of eight starts this year and boasts 13 victories and over $520,000 in earnings from 29 career outings. Much like the Classic, Runco will have a pair of distaffers seeking to play the spoiler role. The longtime leading local conditioner will saddle both See Ya Manana (5-1) and Prime Lime (10-1) in the Cavada, and trainer John McKee will send out Lies And Scandals (6-1), who is winless in seven tries this year.
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