Silky Serena seeks stamina in Sylvia Bishop Stakes

In Saturday’s Sylvia Bishop Memorial Stakes at Charles Town Races, most of the attention will be focused on Silky Serena, who is looking to stretch her speed beyond 4 1/2-furlongs for the first time.

The Bishop, carded as the sixth race, has drawn a field of six and is the first of two $75,000, seven-furlong stakes for West Virginia-bred sophomores on the card. The Bishop, for fillies, is paired with the Robert G. Leavitt Stakes for three-year-olds.

Silky Serena, winner of both the Fancy Buckles Stakes against older runners and the It’s Binn Too Long for her age group, once again drew an outside post for trainer John McKee and owner-breeder Cynthia McKee seeking her third straight stakes tally.

“She seems to be doing really good,” John McKee said of the Fiber Sonde filly who has won three of four starts this year and is listed as the 9-5 morning line favorite for the event. “I’ve been training her different looking to put more stamina in her. She seems to be doing okay. I was glad she drew outside, because I think she’s got enough speed to be up near the lead before the first turn. I think she can work out a good trip. I guess we’ll find out [on Saturday night] if she wants to go that far. But all the stakes from now on are seven furlongs or longer.”

Silky Serena will be the only filly in the Bishop that has yet to travel two turns.

Her main threat, The Sky Is Falling (2-1), has already won three times at the distance. Last year’s champion West Virginia-bred two-year-old filly, The Sky Is Falling won the Eleanor Casey Memorial at the distance last fall after taking the Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders’ Classic for trainer Jeff Runco and owner David Raim. The Sky Is Falling, a Cupid filly out of the Half Ours mare Miss Henny Penny, has won her last two starts against allowance company at seven panels.

Each of the other four sophomores in the group has also won going two turns over the strip. Seneca Rocks (7-2) won a two-turn allowance last out for trainer Javier Contreras and owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms. Aim’s Jubilee (8-1) graduated going 6 1/2 furlongs and has since won a pair of seven-furlong allowance races. Hessica (5-1) romped home in a two-turn allowance last out for owner-breeder-trainer and former jockey Kristy Petty. And while My Juba (15-1) graduated in a one-turn maiden special weight event, she has since posted a pair of two-turn allowance triumphs for trainer James W. Casey.

One race later, the state-bred sophomore boys will have their chance to shine in the Robert Leavitt Memorial. Several of them appear to be heading into the event in peak form.

Jungle Beast, hero of the West Virginia Futurity last fall and a winner three times in four tries this year including his last two outings against older rivals, will seek to give Contreras and owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms a stakes double on Saturday night. Listed as the 2-1 morning line choice, Jungle Beast has been favored in all four of his starts this year and six straight overall. He has won five of eight career outings and banked nearly $150,000.

Run to Daylight, last year’s champion West Virginia-bred juvenile male when he won his first three starts, including the Henry Mercer and WVBC Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Stakes for Runco and Raim, is still in search of his first win after four prior tries this year. Since winning his first three, Run to Daylight has lost six straight, including a pair of open stakes at Laurel Park. His is 8-1 on the morning line and will have Arnaldo Bocachica up.

Late in the Game (7-2), second to Jungle Beast in the West Virginia Futurity last fall, has since graduated for trainer James W. Casey, but he has finished second in each of his last four outings and seven times in 13 career tries. He’s 1-for-13 overall and will have regular pilot Gerald Almodovar up.

Well Equipped, a sharp winner of his debut for trainer Crystal Pickett, rebounded from a pair of dull outings to win his most recent start against allowance foes going 6 1/2-furlongs. Jose Montano is named, and Well Equipped is 4-1 on the morning line.

Primetime Jet (12-1) splashed home to capture a one-turn maiden special weight event last out for trainer Ronney Brown and owner-breeder Mark Becraft. 

Three of the other four runners in the field also won last out. Spirit of Windsor (8-1) prevailed in a three-turn allowance for owner-breeder-trainer Tim Collins for his second career victory. Stormin Rocket (5-1) defeated allowance foes last out for trainer Lewis Craig, Jr. and owner-breeder Bybee Road Farm. Thistledown invader Free Sailin (20-1) was ninth in his most recent outing, but does own four wins from eight career tries for owner-trainer Jason DaCosta.