CHARLES TOWN: RIVALS MEET IN LAST ENCHANTMENT
Last month’s Charles Town Classic card featured several races likely to serve as prep races for next month’s West Virginia Breeders Classics.
Saturday’s card adds three more, in different divisions, as the track will host a pair of $75,000 stakes for the juvenile set and a $40,000 overnight stake for older runners going 4 ½ furlongs.
In the last of the trio, the $40,000 Last Enchantment Overnight Stakes for state-breds tuning up for the West Virginia Dash for Cash Breeders’ Classic, Aaron’s Tap (2-1) and Golden Key (5-2) will renew their rivalry after running one-two in an allowance sprint here on the Charles Town Classic undercard — a race in which Hypothesis (7-2) was favored.
Aaron’s Tap, a seven-year-old Northern Afleet gelding trained by Jeff Runco for owner Smart Angle, notched his first win in seven starts this year and now sports a 15-8-4 slate and over $380,000 banked from 38 career tries. Golden Key is a sophomore son of Uncle Lino owned and trained by Ronney Brown, and he arrives with a solid 5-2-1 slate and $130,000 bankroll from just eight lifetime outings.
“He missed a workout before his last race and that made the difference,” Brown said. “He’s coming into it good, so hopefully the rail won’t be an issue for him. I was looking to find a seven-furlong race for him, but he’s been very good going 4 1/2 furlongs so we might as well stay with that.”
Another contender in the Last Enchanment is Hypothesis, trained by Crystal Pickett for owner Jill Daniel. He owns a 2-1-0 slate from seven seasonal outings and boasts a solid 8-5-1 mark and over $250,000 banked from 20 lifetime outings. Pickett won the Dash for Cash BC last year with the late Dr. Feelgood.
The $75,000 Henry Mercer Memorial Stakes for West Virginia-bred two-year-olds going 4 ½ furlongs. the first of the three stakes, Includes four freshmen who have graduated against maiden special weight company, but it is a maiden who is listed as the 8-5 morning favorite.
Roll Dem Bones, a juvenile son of Freedom Child trained by Ollie Figgins III for owner-breeder Ray Pennington III, arrives off a sharp, second-place finish in the $100,000 Hickory Tree Stakes on the turf at Colonial Downs after running fourth in his career debut over the Virginia course. Roll Dem Bones will make his first start on the main track on Saturday night, and the half-brother to fellow Pennington homebreds Nellysford and Unaquoi could make a smooth transition.
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“He improved from his first start to his second start,” Figgins said. “So, I’m hoping that he continues to improve and transfers his good turf form to the dirt. He’s been training well since the stakes at Colonial, and he had a nice blowout work the other day. Ray has had some luck with others out of that mare, so hopefully this guy will keep up the tradition. I had entered him for a race at Kentucky Downs, but that race did not fill, so I decided to try him in this stakes instead.”
Three of the four graduates in the race did so locally, and Run to Daylight perhaps delivered the most impressive effort of those with his debut score in August 22. The juvenile son of Runhappy trained by Jeff Runco for owner David Raim, romped home three lengths clear as the 7-10 favorite in 52.78. Initially sold for $115,000 in the January mixed sale at Keeneland, Raim landed him for $60,000 at the Keeneland September sale.
“He was really good that first start,” Runco said. “I’m glad he drew the outside post for the stakes. He should be able to get away from there without any trouble. He came out of that first race good and he really hasn’t had to do much since then. We’re just hoping that he’s good again this weekend, and it helps set him up for the [$75,000 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial] on [West Virginia] Breeders’ Classics night.”
Trainer John McKee will send out a pair of runners in the Mercer, with that tandem arriving on opposite ends of the spectrum. Strong Fiber finished third in his career debut here on July 8 and came right back to score in July 29 in 53.47 for the 4 1/2-furlongs. My Phoenix finished a nondescript fifth in his career debut two weeks ago.
“They’re both doing okay, but that one [Fiber Strong] is coming off a nice win while the other one [My Phoenix] just has one race so far,” McKee said. “It looks like a pretty good group. These stakes always come up tough. I’m hoping it sets him up for the Breeders Classics night. Fiber Strong is the better of the two, but some nights you never know.”
Talking Teddy, a freshman son of Medallist trained by former jockey Keturah Obed-Letts, finished second in each of his first three starts before shedding his bridesmaid status to earn his diploma last out on September 4 in 53.38. Talking Teddy had been second to two others in this stakes, Strong Fiber and Run to Daylight, and to Fancy Her Up, who is in the Rachel’s Turn Stakes.
Ohio invader Free Sailin prevailed in his career debut against open maiden special weight company at Thistledown for owner-trainer Jason DaCosta, capturing a 5 1/2-furlong event in 1:05.68 as the 4-1 fourth choice. The juvenile son of Freedom Child was bred by Susan Wantz of Dance to Bristol fame. Abendego also makes his local debut for trainer Scott Lake; he was eighth in a maiden claiming event in his only previous outing at Delaware Park.
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Fancy Her Up is the morning line favorite for the Rachel’s Turn Stakes for state-bred two-year-old fillies, which immediately follows the Mercer. Owned, bred and trained by John A. Casey, Fancy Her Up finished a nondescript sixth last out in the $100,000 Keswick Stakes on the grass at Colonial Downs. Fancy Her Up had won at first asking smartly by nearly six lengths and returns to the main track here.
The Sky Is Falling, listed as the 5-2 second choice in the morning line, also won at first asking on Sep. 3 for Runco and Raim and looms a serious contender in her stakes debut despite drawing the rail. The freshman daughter of Cupid overcame a slow start to rally for a narrow victory as the 2-5 favorite in her career debut earlier this month.
Another sharp local winner was O K Smarty Pants, who was an unlucky second in her career debut before scoring last out by 5 1/2 lengths in 52.92. Owned, bred and trained by Michael Sterling, O K Smarty Pants was second at first asking before winning on July 23.
John McKee will also send out a pair of runners in the Rachel’s Turn, fittingly enough since he trained the race’s namesake. Cousin Winnie edged O K Smarty Pants at first asking, while Ghostly Squall arrives winless in four previous outings.
Both La Cubana, who graduated last out in her third attempt for trainer Victor Espinosa of Noble’s Honey fame, and Aim’s Jubilee, exit the same race. Those freshman fillies finished one-two in a one-turn maiden special weight event here for state-breds on Sep. 3.