Jeff Runco eyeing 2yo stakes sweep

A pair of stakes for two-year-olds Saturday evening at Charles Town Races will help set the stage for next month’s renewal of the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics. But in a sense, what they won’t determine is just as important as what they will.

The two $75,000 races – the Rachel’s Turn for state-bred fillies and the Henry Mercer Memorial for two-year-old state-breds – are both contested around one turn at 4 ½ furlongs. Next month’s WVBC races are around two turns and are 6 ½ furlongs.

Still, the chance to grab some black type and earn a nice pay day is nothing to sneeze at. 

Trainer Jeff Runco has the morning line favorite for each of the two races with a pair of runners who impressed on consecutive August evenings.

Of the two, the Upstart colt Xcellent Start certainly gave every indication that stretching out will suit him just fine. Regardless of how this race goes, he’ll be one to watch on WVBC night. 

In his career bow August 13, Xcellent Start, owned by Runco’s Coleswood Farm and David Raim, had to pass nearly the entire field, rallying from well back to prevail by a neck over next out winner Juba’s Notion.

Arnaldo Bocachica has the mount on Xcellent Start, who is 9-5 on the morning line for the Mercer. Juba’s Notion, who just missed twice before graduating, is the 2-1 second choice; Gerald Almodovar will ride that runner for trainer John A. Casey, who also sends out last out winner Teachintherelease (5-2) with Gustavo Larrosa up.

One race prior, in the Rachel’s Turn, the Runco-trained Sail On Breeze, a homebred for his Coleswood Farm, is the 3-5 morning line favorite after an eye-catching debut. With Bocachica up August 12, Sail On Breeze, by Street Boss, won by over eight lengths in a sharp 52 ⅕ seconds for 4 ½ furlongs.

Bocachica has the mount once again.

Likely her toughest rival will be the Anthony Farrior-trained Strong Willed (5-2). She pressed the pace before prevailing in her September 2 debut over the strip. Marshall Mendez has the return mount.

The eight-race program also includes the $40,000,  4 ½-furlong Last Enchantment for older state-breds. The race includes the top four finishers from the August 26 Potomac, headed by Potomac winner Hypothesis (9-5) and beaten favorite Penguin Power (6-5).