FAVORITES BESTED IN CHARLES TOWN STAKES
Charles Town offered a pair of $75,000 stakes for state-bred runners Saturday night, the Confucius Say for older horses and the Its Binn Too Long for three-year-old fillies. They marked the first stakes contested on Charles Town’s resurfaced race track.
Heading into the latest edition of the Confucius Say Stakes, presented one week later than originally slated due to the track renovation that nixed programs April 21-24, much of the attention was focused on Penguin Power, the two-time hero of the West Virginia Onion Juice Breeders Classic here at the same 7-furlong distance, as well as defending champion of this event for trainer Jeff Runco and owner David Raim.
Penguin Power had ventured to Laurel Park for his two most recent outings in open stakes company and returned to draw the rail and get backed as the 1-2 favorite.
When the gates opened in the Confucius Say, Penguin Power grabbed the lead but had immediate company as Hero’s Man and Rush to the Castle were both sent after the odds-on choice early. Meanwhile, 3-1 second choice V.I.P. Ticket and durable 9-year-old Mean Bean were reserved off the early battle, as Penguin Power ticked off early markers of 23.31 seconds for the quarter and 47.08 for the half.
Midway on the far turn, Penguin Power had proven unable to shake loose from the serious early pressure – he stayed on until the final furlong and faded to fifth — while Mean Bean and V.I.P. Ticket both made their presence felt down the center of the track.
At the top of the lane, Mean Bean gained a short lead but V.I.P. Ticket, under Gerald Almodovar, continued to find more in the lane. He eventually overhauled Mean Bean late to score by three parts of a length in 1:27.31 for the seven furlongs on a fast main track. Running times over the resurfaced Charles Town oval have been noticeably slower than previously, and the winning time of this year’s Confucius Say was just over two seconds slower than the one [1:25.14] that Penguin Power posted en route to taking the 2020 edition.
A five-year-old Maryland-bred son of Windsor Castle trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer for owner-breeder A.R.D Racing Stables (Dr. Alexandro Rubim Dias), V.I.P. Ticket notched his first win in three starts this year and he now owns a 7-4-11 slate and nearly $280,000 banked from 29 career outings. He has now won six of 10 starts over the local strip, including the $50,000 A Huevo Stakes here last fall, and he has exceeded his owner-breeder’s expectations by a considerable margin.
“When I bred him, I was just hoping to win against maiden $10,000 claimers here,” Dias said of V.I.P. Ticket, who could be pointed for the Grade II, $800,000 Charles Town Classic here on August 27. “I really was just hoping to get lucky and win a maiden race with him. But he really loves this track and he’s good going two turns or three turns. That race at Laurel Park last time set up him for this race.”
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Mean Bean was a game second in defeat as an overlooked 21-1 shot with Jason Simpson aboard. Owned and trained by Ranson mailman Glenn Harrison, Mean Bean had been idle since taking a two-turn allowance event here February 3, a victory that had come following a 10-month respite. Mean Bean sports a commendable 11-13-7 slate and nearly $300,000 banked from 41 career tries, having captured the $35,000 Mint Mission Stakes 16 months earlier for the same jockey-trainer tandem.
The It’s Binn Too Long Stakes for state-bred three-year-old fillies going one turn appeared considerably more wide open on paper, and it proved to be so on the track.
Door Buster (Denis Araujo) rallied from fifth early and overhauled Shutupn’kissme (Wesley Ho) in the final strides for a 15-1 upset. Talent Expected, sent out as the 8-5 favorite for trainer Tim Grams and owner-breeder Dennis Finger, settled for fourth as 15-1 outsider Got Your Number grabbed the show spot in the lane for trainer Crystal Pickett.
A sophomore daughter of Speightster trained by Ollie Figgins, III for owner Jay Reese, Door Buster had graduated in her most recent outing going two turns locally against state-bred maiden special weight foes two months earlier after three tries against open maiden special weight company at Laurel Park and debuting in a one-turn state-bred dash here last fall. Following her victory in the March 3 state-bred event here, Figgins convinced owner Jay Reese the Its Binn Too Long Stakes was the next stop on the schedule.
“She ran really good in her first start here going 4 1/2-furlongs last fall, then we decided to let her have the chance to be a really good horse going to Laurel,” Figgins said of Door Buster, who now owns two wins and over $80,000 banked from six tries after getting the 4 1/2-furlongs in 53.13 on Saturday night. “When she won her last race here going two turns, I told Jay I thought the next best spot for her would be this stakes race. She came into really well and Denis gave her a great ride. It was just a matter of waiting for room on the far turn.”
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Araujo, who had steered Door Buster to her maiden breaking score on March 3, admitted he felt confident sitting behind the early speed duel and just waiting for room on the far turn as Talent Expected and Peppa Star threw down a punishing opening quarter-mile in 21.93 seconds. Shutupn’kissme actually got first jump on the Figgins trainee leaving the furlong pole, but Door Buster wore down the John McKee-trained homebred to score in the final strides.
“I was just waiting for racing room on the far turn,” Araujo said. “When I saw [Shutupn’kissme] go through there I knew all I had to was follow her and it was my race from there. She was really good once we straightened away. I never even hit her with the whip. She’s going to be even better in the longer races up here.”