Fancy Concho
Fancy Concho won the 2020 West Virginia Lottery Breeders’ Classic. Photo Coady Photography.

Although it may get lost in the shuffle, what with two graded stakes prior, the $75,000 Frank Gall Memorial Stakes for older West Virginia-breds Friday at Charles Town includes such a deep, talented field that it would have been destined for top billing on any other night on the calendar.

Friday’s Frank Gall Memorial will serve as the final prep for the upcoming October 9 West Virginia Breeders’ Classics for virtually all 13 horses entered, including three on the also-eligible list. Some will certainly aim for the Classic, while the others remain at the seven-furlong distance in the Onion Juice.

“The Gall came up tougher than any race for West Virginia-breds that I can remember,” trainer Tim Grams said.

Trainer Jeff Runco will send out a trio of runners in the Gall, two of which appear to be peaking at the right time while the third is seeking to regain his form of previous years.

Runco will send out the undefeated Muad’dib (Arnaldo Bocachica), the 7-2 morning line favorite from post nine, the durable and sharp North Atlantic (Denis Araujo) at 5-1, and the formidable Penguin Power (Carlos Marrero), who is 9-2 but has yet to earn a check in two starts this year.

Muad’dib has won all six of his lifetime starts for Runco and owner David Raim. The four-year-old full-brother to Late Night Pow Wow will make his stakes debut in this spot, adding intrigue.

North Atlantic arrives off a sharp, two-turn allowance score, and the eight-year-old Ghostzapper gelding owned, bred and trained by Runco will seek the 20th victory of his career. North Atlantic sports a solid 19-17-11 slate and nearly $675,000 banked from 53 career outings.

Despite all that success, North Atlantic boasts one previous stakes triumph, that in the 2017 A Huevo Stakes. He has, however, padded his bankroll considerably by running second twice and third twice in four tries in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic.

In his previous outing, North Atlantic edged the Tim Grams-trained Fancy Concho in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance. This Friday the Tim Grams trainee will seek redemption and his second stakes victory overall in the Gall.

Fancy Concho (6-1) has won six times and finished worse than second only once in 14 career tries. That came following a layoff in which the Fiber Sonde gelding had been dealing with an illness.

“My horse was really sick for a while. I knew he was going to need a race when he came back,” Grams remembered of that June 19 tilt, which was Fancy Concho’s first start in more than three months. “He ran fourth that first start back, but then was a good second to North Atlantic last time out.”

Grams thinks the pace scenario may tell the tale in the Gall.

“I am just hoping that my horse can work out a good trip and get a good piece of it. I know Jeff’s horses are going to be tough and there are some other really nice horses in there,” Grams said. “There’s a lot of speed in there, so I would not be surprised if the winner came from well out of it.”

One of the closers to whom Grams alluded is V.I.P. Ticket, a winner twice in six starts this year for trainer Jerry O’Dwyer. V. I. P. Ticket, who owns an 8-4-11 slate and over $310,000 banked from 32 career tries, won the Confucius Say Stakes during the spring at Charles Town and captured the A Huevo Stakes last fall here.

While V.I.P. Ticket and North Atlantic will be launching their bids late, Bubba Grump will likely be among those providing the early speed. A winner four tomes from seven starts this year and five times in nine lifetime outings overall for trainer Javier Contreras and owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms, Bubba Grump will make his stakes debut in the Gall on Friday night.

Friday’s Frank Gall Memorial is the finale of a 13th race card and will be preceded by the Grade 2, $800,000 Charles Town Classic and the Grade 3, $400,000 Charles Town Oaks, as well as several other stakes.