Coastal Mission strong favorite in Funkhouser Mem’l

Coastal Mission laid waste to the field in last month’s $300,000 Sam Huff West Virginia Breeders Classic, controlling the pace and opening a lead that grew to as many as 8 ½ lengths before cruising home 5 ¾ lengths clear.

Coastal Mission is the 3-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $75,000 Randy Funkhouser Memorial Stakes for West Virginia-breds going the identical nine-furlong distance at Charles Town Races. However, despite the ease of the Great Notion gelding’s win – and his dauntingly low odds – he hasn’t exactly scared any of his rivals off. A full gate of 10 is slated to face the starter with an eleventh runner, Machen’s Ridge, on the also-eligible.

Trained by Jeff Runco and a homebred for his own Coleswood Farm operation, Coastal Mission arrives on a six-race heater that includes three stakes wins. He’s 11-for-16 overall with more than $566,000 in career earnings. Regular pilot Arnaldo Bocachica will ride.

Coastal Mission is likely the speed of the speed if his connections want to go that route, and he also has the versatility to stalk and pounce. If there’s any concern – and there may not be – it’s that he’s breaking from the nine-hole, and the outer posts can be tricky to navigate going three turns.

Of course, the notion that Coastal hasn’t scared off his rivals only goes so far, as three of the other horses in the race’s main body are also Runco trainees. He’ll also send out WVBC runner-up Muad’dib (5-1), WVBC Onion Juice runner-up Social Chic (10-1), and longshot Noballstwostrikes (30-1).

Owned by David Raim, Muad’dib will go over $900,000 in career earnings with a one-two finish in the Funkhouser, which he won last year en route to his second straight state-bred horse of the year crown. He’s won twice this year and ran credibly when fourth in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and then second behind Coast Mission in the WVBC. Orlando Bocachica – Arnaldo’s brother – has the mount.

Social Chic, a 10-time winner in his career, owns three previous stakes wins, the most recent coming in last year’s Frank Gall Memorial going seven furlongs. He enters off a victory in an allowance contest and will try three turns for the first time. Angel Cruz is named.

While Muad’dib, a four-time winner at the 1 1/8-mile distance, appears the biggest threat to his stablemate, the formful No Change poses another. Owner-trainer Cyndy McKee’s charge arrives with back-to-back stakes wins, winning the Gall by 1 ½ lengths over Social Chic before thrashing that same rival by a half-dozen in the WVBC Onion Juice. Marshall Mendez will ride.

Other stakes winners in the field include 2021 West Virginia Futurity winner Jungle Beast (12-1); last year’s Onion Juice winner C R’s Mandate (20-1), who ran second by less than a length in this event a year ago; and 2022 WV Futurity winner No Love for Juba (20-1).

The Funkhouser is carded as the seventh race on an eight-race program with a projected post time of 10:02.