Lookback: Charles Town Races 2022 top stories
During a busy schedule that spanned nearly 50 weeks of live racing, Charles Town put the finishing touches on its 2022 season in mid-December, and a bevy of horses and human athletes alike made a lasting impression on fans and horsemen alike.
Arnaldo Bocachica once again topped the riders’ standings in both wins and earnings. Riding for two of the track’s top three trainers, Anthony Farrior and Jeff Runco, Bocachica booted home 175 winners to finish 32 clear of runner-up Marshall Mendez and he also concluded the season with earnings of over $4.2 million, roughly $800,000 more than Mendez.
Bocachica finished among the top 20 jockeys in the nation in wins, while Mendez was among the leading apprentice riders in the land in wins and earnings while maintaining his bug through November 9.
While ‘Boca’ earned his fifth consecutive riding title at Charles Town in 2022, a new face ascended to the top of the trainer standings. Anthony Farrior earned his first local training title by recording 140 winners from 492 starters. With horses also running at Laurel, he recorded 202 wins on the season, good for 10th nationally.
Ronney Brown finished second with 118 wins, while Runco slipped to third with 79. Runco, however, again topped the trainers’ standings in earnings as his runners banked over $2.84 million, roughly $125,000 more than Farrior and about $460,000 more than Brown.
Although Runco may have finally yielded the training title to Farrior in terms of races won, the longtime local conditioner and former jockey still enjoyed a solid season. His talented older male, Muad’dib repeated in both the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic and the Randy Funkhouser Memorial – previously the A Huevo – and he was also second in the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic in the first setback of his career.
The A Huevo became the Funkouser following the passing of longtime local breeder and horseman Randy Funkhouser February 4. Funkhouser, the patriarch of O’Sullivan Farms, was honored both with the renamed race and also when Confucius Say, an O’Sullivan homebred, was among six horses in the inaugural class of the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association Hall of Fame.
“I mean, it’s extra special,” said Randy Funkhouser’s son John Funkhouser, 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’s looking down on us, right now smiling. I can guarantee that.”
Another prominent, longtime member of the Charles Town racing community also passed away early in the year. Mearl “Lonnie” Sowers, whose lengthy and varied career included a stint in Hall of Famer Bud Delp’s barn and a turn as Charles Town’s racing secretary, passed away at age 82.
in August Charles Town’s longtime head of racing, Erich Zimny, departed the track to become assistant general manager of the Hollywood Columbus (OH) casino. During his 14-year tenure, Charles Town had two races attain graded status and saw wagering handle nearly double during a time when national handle was flat.
Back on the track, Runco trainee Penguin Power emerged as the best one-turn sprinter on the circuit and won the WVBC Dash for Cash. With that win, he became only the second state-bred to win four West Virginia Breeders’ Classics events, joining Confucius Say in that regard.
CHARLES TOWN 2022 GALLERY
Speaking of the Charles Town Classic, Art Collector successfully defended his title in that Grade 2 event when he edged clear from local star Muad’dib in the final furlong. One year earlier Art Collector had used his Charles Town Classic score as a springboard to a victory in the Grade I Woodward at Belmont Park and later a berth in the Grade I Breeders Cup Classic. While Art Collector did not move forward off that victory this summer, fading in his subsequent outing at Churchill Downs, third-place finisher Mind Control capped his campaign and career with a victory in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.
While Muad’dib likely secured his status as West Virginia-bred horse of the year for a second straight season following his Charles Town Classic runner-up effort and WVBC Classic and Randy Funkhouser Memorial scores, Free Sailin emerged as the possible heir to the throne.
The Ohio-based sophomore captured a pair of state-bred stakes for three-year-olds for owner-trainer Jason DaCosta and later rebounded from a fourth-place effort behind Muad’dib in the Funkhouser to upset that one in a two-turn allowance over the strip. It marked the first time that Muad’dib had ever suffered a defeat in a restricted state-bred event of any type.
As Muad’dib, Penguin Power and Free Sailin all continued to enhance their careers and perhaps continue to move forward in 2023, state-bred stars Runnin’toluvya and Star Of Night were both retired before the season ended.
Runnin’toluvya, a gelded son of Fiber Sonde owned and trained by Tim Grams and bred by former local rider Leslie Cromer, was the dominant state-bred male for nearly two years and solidified his legendary local status by capturing the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic in the spring of 2019. He retired after an allowance victory September 8, concluding his career 16 wins and over $1.1 million banked from 30 career outings.
While Star of Night did not have a graded stakes victory on her resume, the Runco trainee and Huntertown Farm homebred won 12 of 15 starts, was never worse than second, and earned over $400,000 in three seasons on the track. A daughter of Creative Cause, Star of Night was champion state-bred three-year-old filly and horse of the year in 2020, and then was champion filly or mare and shared horse of the year with stablemate Muad’dib in 2021. She made only two starts in 2022, finishing second in the Original Gold Stakes before capturing a two-turn allowance.
Art Collector captured the track’s signature event, the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic, and that same night a pair of imports took steps on the road to the Breeders Cup. Society captured the Grade 3, $500,000 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old fillies, and in her next outing she won the Grade I, $1 million Cotillion at Parx before fading to eighth in the Breeders Cup Distaff.
Frank’s Rockette captured the $250,000 Pink Ribbon Stakes for trainer Bill Mott then went directly to the Breeders Cup Filly-Mare Sprint 10 weeks later where she never truly got involved.
On the same WVBC night in which Muad’dib, Free Sailin and Penguin Power solidified their seasonal stardom, a group of six stellar state-breds whose careers concluded decades earlier were inducted into the inaugural West Virginia-bred Hall of Fame. In addition to Confucius Say, Afternoon Deelites, Down Town Allen, Onion Juice, Russell Road and Soul of the Matter – four of which had enhanced their resumes and reputations with WVBC scores – were all officially inducted as inaugural members of the West Virginia-bred Hall of Fame from among nearly 50 horses on the initial ballot. Two horses will be added to the WV-bred Hall of Fame in each subsequent year.