Jungle Beast
Jungle Beast was much the best in the West Virginia Futurity. Photo by Coady Photography.

Saturday night amid clear, crisp conditions, Charles Town offered the latest renewal of the $75,000 West Virginia Futurity for state-bred two-year-olds, the final stakes race on the 2021 calendar at the Jefferson County oval and the last of three competitive races for juveniles on the program.

With WV Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders’ Classic hero Run to Daylight idle for the rest of the season and stablemate Coastal Mission aiming for a stake at Laurel Park December 4, the overall group for the West Virginia Futurity was somewhat moderate: Several arrived off maiden special weight victories, and six of 10 were still maidens as the field combined for just four wins from 41 starts.

One of the group would immediately enhance his/her resume – six of the 10 starters were fillies, though WVBC Triple Crown Nutrition winner The Sky Is Falling was not among them – with a stakes score.

When the gates opened in the West Virginia Futurity, Castle Lights and Windsor’s Play displayed the best early speed, while 3-10 favorite Jungle Beast settled into a good spot in fourth entering the clubhouse turn.

Midway down the backside, jockey Antonio Lopez angled the favorite outside foes for clear sailing, and by the time the field reached the far turn, the favorite had engulfed the early leaders and was on his way to a stakes score. Jungle Beast drew clear in the lane to a 4 1/4-length score while stopping the timer in 1:29.34, with Late in the Game rallying belatedly along the inside to gain the place spot. My Juba was a neck farther back in third.

A juvenile son of Golden Years trained by Javier Contreras for owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms LLC, Jungle Beast notched his first stakes tally, his second straight score and second victory from four outings overall and more than doubled his career earnings past $77,000. He was the second two-year-old winner for those connections on the card and the third of the weekend.

“I think he’s going to be a really nice three-year-old,” Contreras said. “He’s just getting better with each race. I’ve got some really good babies this year. I told Antonio before the race not to get too caught up with the speed early. Just let him settle and then get clearance when you can. He finished really well.”

“Me and Javier talked about the trip before the race,” Lopez said. “He wanted me to let him settle and avoid the other speed. Once he got to the outside, he was ready to run. Turning for home I knew he was the winner. It was good to win the last stakes race of the year. I think he would win a few more next year.”

Two races earlier in a one-turn maiden special weight for state-breds, Swiss Legacy (Antonio Lopez) prevailed by three parts of a length to forge a 12-1 upset in his career debut. A juvenile son of Swiss Yodeler trained by Contreras for owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms and co-owner Shake & Bake Racing LLC, Swiss Legacy got the 4 1/2-furlongs in 54.40 and gave his connections ample reason to be optimistic about his future.

“He had been working great in the morning,” Lopez said. “I knew he would be ready to run tonight.”

“I’ve got some nice babies this year and he’s one of them,” Contreras said. “He had been training great. I think he’s probably going to be better going longer. I wasn’t sure if the 4 1/2 furlongs would be ideal for him, but he ran the way I expected.”

“He’s actually the next-to-last Swiss Yodeler,” said O’Sullivan Farms’s John Funkhouser. “The last one is a yearling filly out of a different mare. We thought he would run well tonight. Javier doesn’t send them to the races unless they’re ready.”

Then two races earlier in an two-turn maiden special weight event for freshman fillies, Jackie the Joker (J.D. Acosta) just lived up to her role as the even-money favorite when she finally wore down a gritty Timeisgolden (Carlos Marrero) for a nose score. A juvenile daughter of Practical Joke trained by Anthony Farrior, Jackie the Joker graduated in her second local try and fourth career outing overall by getting the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:22.91.

Acosta believes she has a lot more talent than she’s shown at the races.

“This filly has so much ability, but she has yet to put it all together,” Acosta said. “She worked five-eighths in :59 at Laurel and then comes here and we run a half in :49 and three-quarters in 1:15 and she’s not running away from them. Entering the far turn, I thought she was going to win by five. But maybe it’s the lights here because she just starts looking around, and I really had to work to get by [Timeisgolden]. She’s got a lot more talent than what she has shown – she just has to put it all together.”