CT: Division lead on line in Eleanor Casey Memorial

Who will move to the head of the class of West Virginia-bred two-year-old fillies this year?

That’s the question that perhaps will be answered in Saturday’s $75,000 Eleanor Casey Memorial Stakes after long shots prevailed in each of the first two stakes for this division and failed to clarify a muddy freshman picture.

Lightnin Runner, who captured the very first maiden special weight for state-bred two-year-olds at Charles Town on July 2 as an overlooked 30-1 shot while facing boys, came right back 10 weeks later to prevail as a 12-1 outsider in the $75,000 Rachel’s Turn Stakes. But she was not eligible to the West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders’ Classic.

In her absence, Marz Express forged a front-running, 13-1 upset in that event three weeks after posting a 34-1 shocker in a two-turn maiden special weight at the same distance.

“It looks like there is a lot more speed in the race this time,” trainer Anthony Farrior said. “She came out the last race good. It’s kind of a quick turnaround, but there’s really not a lot of spots out there for her. If she wins this, she’ll probably get the winter off, and then I will look to find a spot for her up here in the spring. I’m just hoping to get through this race without making contact with John Casey’s filly [Juba’s Parade]. We’ve been involved in bumping incidents the last two races.”

Marz Express, a juvenile daughter of West Coast that Farrior trains for Ultra Championship Racing, has won twice in four starts and earned nearly $55,000. She posted narrow victories over Juba’s Parade in each of her last two starts while traveling 6 1/2 furlongs.

The Eleanor Casey, the last restricted stakes on the calendar for state-bred two-year-old fillies, will be contested at seven panels and Marz Express is listed as the 4-1 second choice on the morning line with regular pilot Jose Montano aboard.

Marz Express
Marz Express (inside) held off Juba’s Parade to win the Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders’ Classic. Photo by Coady Photography.

Lightnin Runner, who has prevailed as an outsider in each of her two career outings, including the Rachel’s Turn, is listed as the 7-2 morning line favorite. A juvenile daughter of Battalion Runner trained by Angel Rodriguez for owner George Nyren, Lightnin Runner followed up her 30-1 shocker in the initial maiden special weight event for state-bred juveniles to capture the Rachel’s Turn as a modest 12-1 shot.

Because she was not eligible to the Breeders’ Classics, this will be her first try around two turns. Antonio Lopez has the mount.

While both Lightnin Runner and Marz Express posted upsets in the Rachel’s Turn and Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders’ Classic, respectively, Sail On Breeze is looking to make amends after being the beaten favorite in both events. A juvenile daughter of Street Boss trained by Jeff Runco for owner-breeder Coleswood Farm, Sail On Breeze disappointed while odds-on in the Rachel’s Turn.

A sharp winner at first asking, Sail On Breeze will seek redemption in her third stakes outing this year. She is 5-1 on the morning line and will have Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons.

Also looking to join the list of upset winners of the state-bred two-year-old filly stakes here this season are Keep On Spurrin, Lucky Blonde, Strong Willed, Juba’s Parade, Impressionism and Marmo Moon. Juba’s Parade has exchanged bumps with Marz Express in each of their last two meetings going two turns over the strip with the Farrior trainee prevailing on each occasion.