Coastal Mission sails to dominant Sam Huff WVBC win
Heading into the latest edition of the $300,000 Sam Huff West Virginia Breeders Classic for state-bred older horses traveling the three-turn distance of one mile and one eighth over a rain-soaked sloppy track, much of the attention focused on a pair of Jeff Runco trainees, although the spotlight was not necessarily on the one that normally garners the most attention.
Although Muad’dib (Marshall Mendez) had arrived as the two-time defending champion of this event and reigning two-time West Virginia-bred horse of the year for Runco and owner David Raim, it was Runco’s homebred, Coastal Mission (Arnaldo Bocachica) that attracted the most attention as the eventual 1-5 favorite.
The Classic marked the first time that a jockey other than Bocachica had ridden Muad’dib in a race, he clearly made the right choice.
When the gates opened in the Classic, Coastal Mission broke alertly from post two and easily cleared Tyry Tyrannasaurous to lead through the first turn while Muad’dib settled into midpack after breaking from post 10 in the field of that size. Coastal Mission, who had benefited from a patient trip early en route to taking the $250,000 Russell Road Stakes last out against open company, cruised past the finish line the first time after getting splits of 25.06 flat and 49.70 to start his journey.
Coastal Mission continued to show the way over the off going down the backside and Bocachica still appeared to have a snug hold on the odds-on choice. Muad’dib launched his usual bid entering the far turn and would eventually garner the runner-up spot as the 7-2 second choice, but he was never a threat to Coastal Mission.
Coastal Mission cruised home 5 ¾ lengths clear while stopping the timer in 1:53.49 over the sloppy track.
A four-year-old Great Notion gelding trained by Runco and bred by Coleswood Farm [Jeff & Susan Runco], Coastal Mission recorded his sixth straight victory and eighth win in nine outings this year and pushed his seasonal bankroll to nearly $430,000. Now a winner 10 times in 11 local outings and 11 times in 16 career tries with lifetime earnings of nearly $570,000, Coastal Mission likely cemented his status as the 2023 West Virginia-bred horse of the year with his latest triumph.
“When I looked over and saw the opening quarter was 25 seconds I knew no one was going by me,” Bocachica said. “Then when no one got near me down the backside and I still had a good hold on him I knew he was going to win. I just nudged him a little on the far turn, but I had so much horse under me. You know, it was a little tough to take off Muad’dib because he has done so well here in these longer races. But this horse was dong so good, I had to stay with him.”
“He had really been training great coming into this,” Jeff Runco said. “I trained him a mile, and he got the last three furlongs in 36 seconds, so I knew he was ready. But until you run, you never know. He just does everything so easily. He just tends to glide over the track. We might stay here and come back next month in the Randy Funkhouser or we might go out of town. New York called me and wanted him for a couple of races, but they’re really too close.”
Coastal Mission is a full brother to Lewisfield, a winner of the Maryland Million Sprint who earned over a half-million dollars in his career for Runco and owner-breeder Linda Zang.
“It’s really been exciting watching him win these races,” added Susan Runco. “His family has always been really good sprinters. So, we were asking him to do something different. But he has so much natural early speed. When he made the lead in those fractions I knew he was going to be tough to beat.”
Muad’dib delivered a very good effort in defeat for Runco and owner David Raim, besting Late in the Game for the runner-up spot. The two-time defending champion of this event owns a 2-1-0 slate and just over $150,000 banked from five seasonal outings and he now sports a 14-2-1 slate and nearly $900,000 bankroll from 19 lifetime outings that also included a second- and fourth-place finish in the two most recent editions of the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic.
CHECK OUT THE LATEST OFF TO THE RACES RADIO!