CHESTER - Mountaineer Racetrack and Gaming Resort will conclude its 2012 stakes schedule Tuesday with the 11th running of the $85,000 Sophomore Sprint Championship. The six-furlong event for 3-year-olds will bring the track's stakes offerings for the year to a baker's dozen, for aggregate purses of more than $2.1 million.
"I think we hold our own in that department," said Joe Narcavish, the racing secretary at Mountaineer. "You judge the quality of stakes fields not only by the past performances of the horses who run in them, but by what they do in their subsequent efforts. We do offer lucrative stakes pots, and good money brings quality competitors."
Yes, and here's some proof. On this year's Aug. 4 West Virginia Derby undercard, Tapizar was a 4-length winner of the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Cup. On Nov. 3, the 4-year-old colt was a 2-length winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.
HAS A CHANCE — Tapizar, shown here winning the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Cup at Mountaineer on Aug. 4, went on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.
-- Coady Photography
At Mountaineer, Tapizar, who is trained by Steve Asmussen, was a prohibitive 7-10 favorite. At Santa Anita, he was sent off at 15-1 odds, making him the third longest shot in the field of nine. But in both races, Tapizar clearly proved best.
Tapizar now has a quartet of black-type scores on his resume - he also won Santa Anita's Sham Stakes last year and the San Fernando this past January. Tapizar's career purse earnings total just short of $1 million.
His owners, Joan and Ron Winchell, have suggested Tapizar might continue racing at age 5. If he does, he could try again for a Governor's Cup/Breeders' Cup double. It's a plan with proven results.
Macho Macho, the Asmussen trainee who won this year's West Virginia Derby, has raced once since his Mountaineer effort. He was second in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing (formerly known as Philadelphia Park) on Sept. 22 - finishing in front of Golden Ticket and Alpha, who had dead-heated for first in the Travers Stakes. at Saratoga.
Bourbon Courage, the second-place finisher in this year's West Virginia Derby (he missed victory by a hard-driving half-length), was a five-length winner of the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in his next start. And, following that effort, Bourbon Courage closed from seventh position at the eighth-pole to finish second by a length in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park.
The connecting threads within these developments make an impressive quilt. Tapizar became a Grade 1 winner with his Breeders' Cup victory. Macho Macho beat a Grade 1 winner (Hansen) in the West Virginia Derby, and was better than a pair of Grade 1 winners in the Pennsylvania Derby.
With his Super Derby performance, Bourbon Courage is now a Grade 2 winner in his own right. Might one (or more) of Tuesday's Sophomore Sprint Championship contenders go on to similar achievements? It has happened before.
Fabulous Strike was the Sophomore Sprint Championship winner in 2006. Under Dana Whitney, he drew off to win by 8 lengths. And by the time Fabulous Strike's racing career ended, he had been victorious in 12 stakes. Five of them were graded, including the 2007 edition of the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park.
Ravalo, who won the 2007 Sophomore Sprint Championship (under Whitney as well), is still racing. He has 13 career stakes victories - including a pair in Grade 3 company - and has been stakes-placed on 16 other occasions. Black-type victories by Ravalo have been achieved at Mountaineer, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Presque Isle Downs, Pimlico Race Course, Monmouth Park, Penn National, Remington Park and Woodbine, nine tracks all told. Ravalo's career purse earnings now total over $1.27 million.
In thoroughbred racing, one never knows just when and from where a future star will emerge. Maybe on Tuesday, at Mountaineer.
Sophomore Sprint Championship Notes: From the rail out they are Whiskey Rebellion (who is graded stakes-placed), Fleet Eagle, Captain Genius, Warrioroftheroses, the filly Nightofsolance, High Native Fly, Steel Man and Jasizzle ... the Sophomore Sprint will be the eighth of nine races on the card and has a scheduled post of 9:55 p.m.