10/12/2017 12:10PM

Casey, Runco have numbers for W.Va. Breeders' Classic night

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Charitable Annuity won the 2015 West Virginia Breeders' Classic and finished second in the race last year.

Each year, two days of racing stand out on the Charles Town calendar. Charles Town Classic Day in April is the West Virginia track’s day to shine on a national level. West Virginia Breeders’ Classic night on Saturday is for the local horsemen and fans.

The nine-race program is comprised solely of statebred stakes and peaks with the $350,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic. The purse of the 1 1/8-mile race has taken a $150,000 haircut this year but still offers a sizable payday. The card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

James W. Casey leads all trainers with 30 Breeders’ Classic night wins, one for every year the series has been held. His Taylor Mountain Farm is the leading owner with 15 wins, and his late wife, Eleanor, ranks second with 13 victories. Casey’s sons, John and James M., both have had great success in the series themselves.

James W. Casey has at least one entrant in each race Saturday and a total of 15, including an also-eligible, on the card. He has the morning-line favorite in three races.

Jeff Runco, who is well on his way to a 12th consecutive Charles Town training title, has entered 17 horses, including two also-eligibles. Although none of his horses is favored, he has top contenders in several races.

In the Classic, the Casey-trained Charitable Annuity is the 9-5 choice even though he is 1 for 6 this year. Charitable Annuity won the Classic in 2015 as a 3-year-old and was second last year to Runco’s Slip the Cable.

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Charitable Annuity is owned by Mark Russell, who also won the Classic in 2014, 2011, and 2009 with Russell Road, whom Casey trained.

Charitable Annuity, a winner of 14 of 27 starts and $690,000, will be stretching out from seven furlongs. Christian Hiraldo, who is battling Arnaldo Bocachica for leading rider at the meet, will be aboard.

“He’s had some little soundness problems this year, which have kept us from training him as hard as we’d like,” Casey said. “But he wants that distance. One and one-eighth miles helps him a lot. I think he’ll like the added distance more than anyone else.”

In 10 starts at 1 1/8 miles, Charitable Annuity has a 5-2-2 record. Nine-furlong races are run around three turns over Charles Town’s six-furlong track.

North Atlantic, who races for Runco, and Ello Govna, trained by Ollie Figgins III, look to be Charitable Annuity’s chief rivals, although neither has won a stakes or at a distance beyond seven furlongs.

North Atlantic is a 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper who was bred and races for Coleswood Farm. He is 6 for 20 and enters off wins in open second- and third-level allowances at Charles Town.

Ello Govna, 5, won a no-conditions statebred allowance last time out. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86, the highest recent number in this field.