On the same night that it offered a pair of $50,000 West Virginia stakes races for two-year-olds, one each for colts and fillies, Charles Town also offered a pair of state-bred stakes for older horses prepping for the upcoming West Virginia Breeders Classics card here on October 10. Much like the juvenile races, the two events for older horses proved to be quite formful.
Heading into the $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial for older males, much of the attention was focused on defending Gall hero, Penguin Power, a winner 12 times in his first 15 career outings for trainer Jeff Runco, and Runnin’toluyva, recently third in the Grade II, $600,000 Charles Town Classic a full 15 months after he had prevailed in that event for trainer Tim Grams.
When the gates opened in the Frank Gall, Penguin Power broke alertly but he soon had company from Hero’s Man and those two dueled by the opening quarter in 22.2 with Runnin’toluvya away in an ideal spot in third followed by Rush to the Castle and North Atlantic. Penguin Power gradually disposed of Hero’s Man midway down the backside and by the half-mile mark in 46.1, but Runnin’toluvya soon made his presence known in a big way.
Midway on the far turn, Runnin’toluvya loomed alongside Penguin Power as the two older males were well off the fence, enabling North Atlantic a clear path. Runnin’toluvya overhauled Penguin Power inside the eighth pole and he held safe North Atlantic through the lane for a two-length score in 1:26.06 for the seven panels.
A four-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding trained by Grams for his wife, Judy Grams, Runnin’toluvya recorded his first stakes victory in over a year and now owns 15 wins and nearly $1.1 million banked from 24 career tries. His next outing will undoubtedly be the West Virginia Breeders Classic here on October 10, a race he won two years ago before finishing last one year ago after rearing up in the gate.
“I had an ideal trip,” said jockey Christian Hiraldo. “When I moved alongside Penguin Power I knew that I had him. He was trying everything to beat me, but I knew that I had him. He’s been doing so good in the mornings. He’s back to being his old self.”
Two races earlier in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, much of the focus was on Bridging the Gap (Rashawn Latchman) who arrived having won consecutive starts against allowance foes and four times in seven outings this year for owner-trainer John McKee.
When the gates opened in the Sadie Hawkins, Bridging the Gap broke best of all to gain command passing the wire the first time and shook off early pressure from Grace Elizabeth before reaching the opener in 23.1. See Ya Manana took up a reserve spot in third but she would make her presence known before the conclusion.
Bridging the Gap shook loose from Grace Elizabeth midway down the backside then met a serious challenge from See Ya Manana who eyeballed the odds-on choice leaving the quarter pole. For an instant, Bridging the Gap looked vulnerable as See Ya Manana offered serious pressure. But any hint of a late duel proved to be a mirage as Bridging the Gap found another gear and drew clear late to a four-length score in 1:26.51 for the seven panels.
One race after the Sadie Hawkins, Secret Castle forged a mild 9-2 upset when she rallied from well off the pace to capture a two-turn allowance for state-bred fillies and mares. A sophomore daughter of Windsor Castle trained by Ronney Brown, Secret Castle now sports a 2-3-4 slate and over $60,000 banked from 12 career outings after getting the seven panels in 1:29.28. Favored Suzysellsseashells stumbled at the break and finished fourth in her local debut.
Note - spots are filling up quickly for the 34th annual Sam Huff Golf Classic at Locust Hill Golf Course on Friday, October 9. Former Washington Redskins players Pat Fisher and Ron McDole will serve as honorary tournament chairmen. Foursomes can play for $400, while individuals cost $100 and play will begin with a shotgun start. Interesting potential players should contact Carol Holden at the West Virginia Breeders Classic at 304-725-0709 for more information.