WV-bred Hall of Fame welcomes first class

A half-dozen horses, including five millionaires, four horses who won West Virginia Breeders’ Classics races, and two Grade 1 winners, comprise the initial class of the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association Hall of Fame. 

The Hall of Fame is limited to horses who were bred in West Virginia and have been retired from racing for at least five years.

The inaugural class was inducted in a winners’ circle ceremony following the sixth race on Saturday’s West Virginia Breeders’ Classics card at Charles Town Races. The sixth, the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association Onion Juice Breeders’ Classic, is named for one of the six new Hall of Famers.

Onion Juice, a foal of 1980, was a son of Quartermaster out of the Victoria Park mare Menage. Trained by Charles A. Woodson, Jr. for himself and Donald C. Woodson, Onion Juice won 27 times in his 65-race career, earning $226,715 in the process.

While he won multiple stakes, he achieved his most noteworthy triumph in 1987, when he scored in the first running of the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic.

Two of the six inductees were stablemates, owned by Burt Bacharach, bred by his Blue Seas Music, Inc. operation, and trained in California by Richard Mandella.

Soul of the Matter is the richest West Virginia-bred of all time. A son of Private Terms out of the T. V. Commercial mare Soul Light, Soul of the Matter won seven of 16 starts while posting more than $2.3 million in career earnings.

He achieved his top win as a three-year-old, in 1994, when he won the Grade 1 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs about five months after he had finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. In the final start of his career, he was a very good second in the first running of the Dubai World Cup, beaten only by national Hall of Famer Cigar.

Bacharach also bred and owned Afternoon Deelites. Also by Private Terms, he was out of the Medaille d’Or mare Intimate Girl. A year younger than Soul of the Matter, Afternoon Deelites won seven of 12 career starts while notching a bankroll of more than $1 million.

He won Grade 1 contests at two and at three, competed in the 1995 Kentucky Derby, and finished second in the 1996 Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in the final start of his career. 

Closer to home, the richest state-bred to race primarily at Charles Town is Russell Road. A 31-time winner in 62 outings, Russell Road earned just more than $2 million.

Bred by Robert Lloyd and trained by James W. Casey for owner Mark Russell, Russell Road is a Wheaton gelding out of the Verification mare Roberta Grump. He won a remarkable 22 stakes races. Russell Road won the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic three times over six racing seasons, the first coming in 2009 at age three and the last in 2014, when he was eight.

The two other inductees were also both millionaires.

No horse has won more WVBC events than the four posted by Confucius Say. The Eastover Court gelding, out of the Feel the Power mare Mo Chun, won back-to-back runnings of the Classic, at ages three and four in 2001 and 2002. He didn’t race between 2002 and 2006 before returning in ‘06, now eight years old, to win the Onion Juice. The following year, at nine, he returned to win the Classic for the third time.

Confucius Say was a homebred for O’Sullivan Farms LLC and was trained by George Yetsook.

“I mean, it’s extra special,” said John Funkhouser of O’Sullivan Farms, who is also president of the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association. “It’s just so special to have him come in as the first class because, you know, my dad would be very, very happy right now. We lost him several months ago earlier this year, and so it’s just he, he’s looking down on us, right now smiling. I can guarantee that.”

The lone distaff runner in the inaugural class is Down Town Allen. A homebred for John A. Casey, who also trained her, Down Town Allen won 25 of 42 starts while earning just over $1 million. A daughter of Windsor Castle, she was out of the Roy mare Like Down Town.

She won at least one stake in six consecutive seasons, starting as a two-year-old and extending through her seven-year-old year of 2014, when she went six-for-six with five stakes wins. She won the Cavada, the top Breeders’ Classic race for fillies and mares, in 2012 and 2014.

Hall of Fame plaques will be displayed at the track and future classes are scheduled to be inducted annually.

“It gives the horsemen something to look forward to to see their horses showcased,” said WVTBA board member Judy Grams. “It means that the horses aren’t forgotten. That’s a big thing.”