Coastal Mission skips Funkhouser, targets Cigar Mile

Coastal Mission, the 3-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Randy Funkhouser Memorial Stakes at Charles Town Races, has been scratched from the race and will await the December 2 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, trainer Jeff Runco said in a text message to our correspondent Ted Black.

The Cigar Mile, a Grade 2 event, carries a $500,000 purse and is contested around one turn. Coastal Mission’s most recent victory, in the $300,000 Sam Huff West Virginia Breeders Classic, was at 1 ⅛ miles and around three turns. But all of his prior victories came at distances less than one mile.

“I think he will like a flat mile,” Runco texted.

The Cigar Mile was contested as the NYRA Mile from its inception in 1988 until 1997, when it was renamed for Cigar, the Maryland-bred winner of the 1994 edition. Among the subsequent winners have been two-time champ Congaree (2002-2003), To Honor and Serve (2011), Flat Out (2013), Tonalist (2015), and Sharp Azteca (2017). Last year’s edition went to Mind Control.

Coastal Mission has won 11 of 16 starts in his career, amassing $566,643 in earnings. He’s collected three stakes wins, all this year, and has a six-race win streak to his credit. While all of his wins but one have been at Charles Town – he won an allowance at Laurel Park early in his three-year-old season – he did win the open-company Russell Road impressively and has run well in a couple of outings at Laurel Park, suggesting he can take his show on the road.

Runco, a winner of nearly 4,700 races, posted his only graded win to date at Aqueduct. He sent two-time Charles Town Classic winner Researcher there to win the 2008 Grade 3 Queens County Handicap.

The scratch of Coastal Mission allows also-eligible Machen’s Ridge (20-1) to draw into the Funkhouser. It also leaves Muad’dib, another Runco trainee, the likely favorite; a two-time winner of this event, he is 5-1 on the morning line and ran second to Coastal Mission in the Sam Huff Breeders Classic. No Change, winner of the WVBC Onion Juice last out, is 8-1.

Coastal Mission is a four-year-old gelding by Great Notion and a full brother to the graded stakes-placed stakes winner Lewisfield. He was bred in West Virginia by Jeff and Susan Runco’s Coleswood Farm Inc. and is also owned by them.