With the West Virginia Breeders Classics card now just around the corner, Charles Town offered a quartet of $50,000 stakes races for state-bred males and females alike last Saturday night. Two of the stakes were for West Virginia-bred two-year-olds, one each for colts and fillies, and both one-turn events proved to be formful.
In the second race on the card, the $50,000 Rachel’s Turn Stakes for state-bred two-year-old fillies, That Kenney Kid was made the odds-on choice following her sharp graduation score for trainer Jeff Runco, while the John McKee homebred tandem of Shutupn’kissme and Theladyistrue were the second and third choices, respectively, since both had won their most recent outings. Moonlit Shadow, the full-sister to former state-bred star, Moonlit Song, was a late scratch and will make her debut another night.
When the gates opened in the Rachel’s Turn, Got Your Number, the lone maiden in the quartet, broke best of all to gain command before the 22.2 opener then That Kenney Kid made her presence known briefly before dropping back to last. McKee’s tandem of Shutupn’kissme and Theladyistrue both made their presence known on the far turn, although Shutupn’kissme encountered traffic trouble in the compact field and that would make the difference in the end.
Afforded clear sailing throughout, Theladyistrue swept her foes on the far turn then outfought Shutupn’kissme in the final 100 yards for a length score. The juvenile daughter of Fiber Sonde owned, bred and trained by McKee notched her second win from four starts and more than doubled her career earnings past $55,000. McKee had also owned, bred and trained the race’s namesake, Rachel’s Turn, a dominant sort well before slots enhanced the local purses.
“She’s really not much in the morning,” said jockey Rashawn Latchman. “But she does her best running at night. She’s improved 110 percent each start. Tonight I was able to stay out of trouble and she really responded in the lane.”
Two races later on the card in the $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial for state-bred two-year-old males, Pilot In Command (Arnaldo Bocachica) was made the 4-5 favorite from the rail for trainer Jeff Runco while Hopping Henry (Wesley Ho) was the 5-2 second choice. Several other juveniles took money at times, with Natural Attraction eventually the 7-2 third choice.
When the gates opened in the Henry Mercer, longshot Uncle Funky broke best of all to gain command leaving the chute but he soon had company from Hopping Henry. Pilot In Command broke well from the rail to settle into fourth but he was never a factor and eventually settled for third as the odds-on choice.
Hopping Henry gained command while well off the fence on the far turn and he surged to a clear lead at the head of the lane while clearly widest of all. Despite drifting out to the eight path in the lane, Hopping Henry maintained a comfortable margin to the wire and held sway late for a length score. It was his second straight win and pushed his career earnings past $50,000 for owner-breeder-trainer Michael Sterling.
“This horse is really going to improve once we add blinkers,” Sterling said. “I think the two-turn race here [on WVBC night] is definitely next. I think he’ll do well stretching out. He’s learning to relax. But once we add blinkers he’s going to really improve.”
In the race between the two juvenile stakes, Officer Appeal rallied from well off the pace to overhaul 8-5 favorite Social Chic in the final strides for forge a 24-1 shocker in a two-turn maiden special weight event for state-bred two-year-old males. A juvenile gelded son of Officer Rocket owned and trained by Ernesto Perez, Officer Appeal notched his first victory in four lifetime tries by getting the 6 1/2-furlongs in 1:21.99.
In the opening race on the card, a one-turn maiden special weight dash for state-bred fillies and mares, Lady Licious (Sunday Diaz, Jr.) rallied from just off the pace to overhaul 8-5 favorite Miss Wave for a length score. A four-year-old daughter of Bobalicious trained by Ollie Figgins III of Dance to Bristol fame, Lady Licious notched her first win in five starts this year and seven overall by getting the 4 1/2-furlongs in 53.82. Miss Wave settled for second for the fifth time in six career tries.