By TED BLACK
Spirit Sports Writer
Conditions were ideal for competitors and onlookers last Saturday night when Charles Town hosted the 34th edition of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, but those connected with the winners of the $150,000 Classic and $100,000 Cavada likely had the least amount of objections to file regarding the evening.
Last Saturday night’s stakes-filled WVBC card, offering purses of nearly $1 million, was once again highlighted by two lucrative stakes on the latter one-third of the program — the Classic at nine furlongs for older males and the Cavada at seven panels for fillies and mares. Both have seen considerable purse reductions since their peak — both were worth a cool half-million at one time — but the winning connections of the Classic and Cavada perhaps were able to savor the moment nevertheless.
Heading into the Classic much of the attention was focused on Runnin’toluvya, who won the race two years ago in emphatic fashion then flopped as the 1-5 choice last year after nearly flipping in the gate. Runnin’toluvya arrived for this year’s edition of the Classic off a handy win in the Frank Gall Memorial which came on the heels of a decent third-place effort in the Grade II, $600,000 Charles Town Classic and the Grams trainee was again made the 2-5 favorite, while North Atlantic was the 7-2 second choice for trainer Jeff Runco in his fifth try at ‘Classic’ success.
When the gates opened in the West Virginia Breeders Classic, longshots Hero’s Man and Opera Nite broke best of all to vie for command, with Runnin’toluvya and North Atlantic just behind the top pair. The leaders maintained an honest tempo through the first three calls, getting splits of 23, 2, 47 and 1:12.3, which enabled some of the closers to get involved late and once again the outcome did not involve Runnin’toluvya.
At the top of the lane, Runnin’toluvya was beginning to fade and the pace had taken its toll on Hero’s Man and Opera Nite. The fast splits proved beneficial to Awsome Faith (Antonio Lopez) who rallied widest of all to edge Buff’s Eye View for a neck score and 37-1 shocker in 1:54.27. North Atlantic settled for third, with Hero’s Man fourth. North Atlantic has finished second once and third three times now in five Classic outings.
A seven-year-old Friesan Fire gelding owned and trained by Jeff “Scott” Allen, Awsome Faith notched his first win in five starts this year and now sports a 10-13-10 slate and over $300,000 banked from 52 career outings. His triumph have Allen his first victory of any kind on the WVBC card.
“When the race was going, I honestly thought he might be able to get third,” said Allen, who got his trainer’s license in 1999. “But he was able to get to the outside and just keep rolling. I had tremendous trust in Antonio. I started using him back when he was an apprentice. I had never come close to winning once of these races. I think the best I had done prior to tonight was fourth.”
One race earlier in the $100,000 Cavada for state-bred fillies and mares, much of the focus was on Bridging the Gap (Rashawn Latchman) who arrived having won three straight races for owner-trainer John McKee, including a gritty score in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes. Bridging the Gap was made the 1-5 favorite in the Cavada in a race where she had already handled most of the field in prior contests and proved well worth the short price.
When the gates opened in the Cavada, Bridging the Gap (Rashawn Latchman) broke alertly despite being restless briefly in the gate and she gained command before reaching the opener in 23.2. Lady Storm advanced to offer brief pressure but was never a serious threat to the favorite, while See Ya Manana looked to launch her bid from midpack. But none of the closers would have a genuine chance to score on this night.
After getting the half in 47.3, Bridging the Gap began to edge clear from her foes under mild urging from Latchman and she romped home seven lengths clear while stopping the timer in 1:25.67. A four-year-old daughter of Fiber Sonde owned and trained by McKee and bred by the late Don Cain, Bridging the Gap notched her second straight stakes score, her fourth straight win overall and sixth win from nine seasonal outings.
“She was a little fractious in the gate,” Latchman said. “But once she settled and broke well I knew she was okay. I never really started to ask her until the quarter pole. Once she found her best stride I knew she was good from there. It’s been a dream to ride a filly like this year all.”
In the other state-bred stakes on the card, Dr. Feelgood (Darius Thorpe) won the West Virginia Dash For Cash for the second straight year by stopping the timer in 50.91 for trainer Crystal Pickett. Penguin Power easily successfully defended his title in the Onion Juice for older males by getting the seven furlongs in 1:24.09. Youthinkthatsfunny (Rashawn Latchman) and That Kenney Kid (Arnaldo Bocachica) won the Vincent Moscarelli Memorial and Triple Crown Nutrition Stakes for juvenile boys and girls, respectively. Star Of NIght (Bocachica) won the WV Department of Tourism for three-year-old fillies and captured the WV Lottery for three-year-old boys in the finale.
Fancy Concho won the WV Lottery for three-year-old boys and She Figures took the Distaff for older mares.
Note: Charles Town set a new handle record for WVBC night with over $3.4 million wagered on the nine-race card
Awsome Faith (Antonio Lopez) rallied from well off the pace to forge a 37-1 shocker in the $150,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic on Saturday night for owner-trainer Jeff “Scott” Allen
Bridging the Gap (Rashawn Latchman) led throughout to capture the $100,000 Cavada last Saturday night as the odds-on favorite for owner-trainer John McKee.