Running straight helped River Crosroad RVF win on Feb. 6, 2021. Photo by Coady Photography.

Over the past 10 years or so, trainer Jeff Runco and jockey Arnaldo Bocachica have become a formidable team at Charles Town, winning virtually every West Virginia-bred stakes race and countless allowance events with a bevy of talented runners who handled the three-quarter mile oval with aplomb.

On the other end of the spectrum, of course, is their recent collaboration with a talented but oft-misbehaved runner named River Crosroad RVF.

In his career debut last June, River Crosroad RVF finished a nondescript fourth in a one-turn maiden special weight won by Lufty’s Kisses and featuring the career debut of Fancy Concho, who later went on to be named champion West Virginia-bred three-year-old male for trainer Tim Grams.

But in his second start five weeks later, River Crosroad RVF cruised to a sizable advantage rounding the turn for home – before suddenly bolting leaving the quarter pole and heading towards home.

It was so startling that track announcer Paul Espinosa missed it altogether. “He was so far out in front, I missed him leaving the track,” Espinosa said at the time. (See video below).

“That first time he bolted it caught us a little by surprise,” Runco said. “He hadn’t really done anything like that in the mornings. After that start we put a different set of blinkers on him, but we ended up changing them again later.”

Just over five weeks later, River Crosroad RVF managed to stay clear of his errant ways for one outing when he lived up to his role as the 6-5 favorite in a two-turn maiden special weight event on August 1, scoring by a length 1:19.74 for the 6 1/2-furlongs.

Problem solved? Not so fast.

Immediately after earning his diploma in his third career try, River Crosroad RVF reverted to his wandering ways in a two-turn allowance on Sep. 10.

Sent out as the 6-5 favorite in a two-turn allowance in his first try against winners, River Crosroad RVF seemed to have shaken off his rivals nearing the eighth pole but bolted egregiously again turning for home and left the track.

“River Crosroad RVF did it again!” Espinosa exclaimed.

That performance caught both Runco and Bocachica by surprise since both thought the blinkers had remedied the problem.

“I have had horses bolt, but never had one run into the gap before,” Runco said. “That was pretty scary for Boca. The horse has plenty of ability, but he’s a little peculiar at times. After that race we put a thicker set of blinkers on him and I took him over to Laurel to get him accustomed to racing in the day and getting adjusted to the bigger set of blinkers. He seems to be okay now, but that one race really caught us by surprise.”

“That first time he bolted he did it much later than normal,” Bocachica said. “I thought he behaved pretty good the first start, then that second one he ran off on me at the three-sixteenths pole. Most horses usually do something like that at the five-eighths pole. But he bolted on me and it was definitely a surprise. Then he won his next start and we thought he was okay. I thought he was going to win that next start but then he bolted again turning for home and ducked into the gap.”

River Crosroad RVF followed his second misadventure with two starts at Laurel last winter, finishing eighth and sixth in two starts against claimers, but he returned to capture a one-turn allowance dash for state-breds February 6 as the 6-5 favorite, getting the 4 1/2-furlongs in 53.24. His latest victory and a workout on March 6 have allowed both Runco and Bocachica to breathe a brief sigh of relief heading into his potential next outing.

“He’s got a little bit of ability and hopefully we’ve got him straightened out now,” Runco said. “I think the newest set of blinkers really helped and I thought taking him to Laurel for those two starts also helped him quite a bit. He’s got some talent; now we just have to hope that he minds his manners.”