The Sky Is Falling scores in Sylvia Bishop Memorial

On a rainy Saturday in which temperatures soared well into the 90s and sunset could only offer a moderate relief to the oppressive heat and humidity, Charles Town hosted both a pair of $75,000 stakes for West Virginia-bred three-year-olds.

Both the Sylvia Bishop Memorial, for fillies, and the Robert G. Leavitt gave onlookers some reassurance that cooler climes and the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics are just around the corner.

Heading into the latest renewal of the Sylvia Bishop Memorial, named in honor of the first licensed African-American female trainer in the sport’s history, much of the attention was expected to be focused on 9-5 morning line favorite, Silky Serena, a winner of two straight stakes going 4 1/2 furlongs. But the John McKee trainee was a vet scratch on the day of the race, and the Cynthia McKee homebred will have to wait until next month to make her two-turn debut.

With Silky Serena out, the focus turned to The Sky Is Falling, a sophomore daughter of Cupid trained by Jeff Runco for owner David Raim. Last year’s champion West Virginia-bred two-year-old filly when she won a pair of two-turn stakes capped by a score in the Eleanor Casey Memorial, The Sky Is Falling had won her two previous outings against allowance foes at the seven-furlong distance and she went off the solid 4-5 favorite.

Soon after the gates opened in the latest renewal of the Sylvia Bishop Memorial, Hessica (Gerald Almodovar) darted to the front from her outside slot and cleared to command passing under the wire the first time. With Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons, The Sky Is Falling took up the chase from second.

Hessica maintained a clear lead through moderate splits of 24.15 and 48.11 for the quarter and half with The Sky Is Falling her nearest pursuer and well clear of the rest. Entering the far turn The Sky Is Falling loomed into contention and soon splashed right by the loose leader.

Under mild urging from Bocachica, The Sky Is Falling drew clear in the lane to a 2 1/2-length score while stopping the timer in 1:27.47 for the seven panels over the sloppy, sealed going. Hessica lasted for the place spot, followed home by Seneca Rocks, Aim’s Jubilee and My Juba.

A sophomore daughter of Cupid out of the productive mare Miss Henny Penny trained by Jeff Runco for owner David Raim, The Sky Is Falling recorded her third straight win and third stakes score and now boasts six wins and $190,357 banked from eight career tries.

“I was confident that she would do well, but I still didn’t want to let [Hessica] get too far away from me,” Bocachica said. “I thought I could get her turning for home, but I wanted to stay close enough that she wouldn’t steal it. She’s doing really good. I think she’s even better than she was last year.”

“Last year I thought Run to Daylight was better than her, but right now I think she’s a little better than him,” said Raim, who also owns her half-brother, an unraced two-year-old Tapwrit gelding named Moon Fall. “She’s really good right now, and I think she’s going to be really, really good.”

Jungle Beast garnered the most attention from the betting public in the Robert G. Leavitt Stakes, which took place one race after the Sylvia Bishop. A sophomore son of Golden Years trained by Javier Contreras for owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms, Jungle Beast was made the 4-5 choice, while Thistledown invader Free Sailin, with Angel I. Diaz up, was sent out as the 7-2 second choice despite his garish 20-1 morning line and the presence of Run to Daylight, last year’s champion West Virginia-bred two-year-old male.

Longshot Primetime Jet, fresh off a maiden score going 4 1/2 furlongs, provided the early speed to no one’s surprise. Entering the far turn Jungle Beast had swept to command, opening a one-length lead over the tiring Primetime Jet, and appeared well on his way to a formful score.

But Thistledown invader Free Sailin in his first start over the strip, rallied from off the pace and overhauled the odds-on choice in the lane for a 2 1/4-length score in 1:27.46, an almost identical clocking to the one the sophomore fillies posted in the Sylvia Bishop just 30 minutes earlier.

A gelded son of Freedom Child owned and trained by Jason DaCosta and bred by Susan Wantz of Dance to Bristol fame, Free Sailin recorded his third win in five starts this year and his fifth victory in nine career tries, pushing his lifetime earnings past the $110,000 plateau. DaCosta was not on hand, but assistant trainer Kingsley Beckford brought the horse from the Ohio track for the race. Diaz has been aboard Free Sailin for each of his last two victories and three of his five career scores.

Free Sailin won at first asking last August at Thistledown with Diaz aboard, but then was fifth in his subsequent outing. His only previous stakes try did not go well as the Freedom Child gelding finished 11th of 14 runners in the Maryland Million Nursery at Laurel Park. He rebounded to win his next two starts, however, then prevailed again two starts back. A genuine hit-or-miss type, Free Sailin has failed to hit the board in his four defeats, beaten an average of over 13 lengths.

The Sky Is Falling
The Sky Is Falling won the Sylvia Bishop Memorial Stakes. Photo by Coady Photography.