12/02/2012 12:47PM

Charles Town: Runco among eight new members to Charles Town Hall of Fame


Jeff Runco, perennial leading trainer at Charles Town, is among eight new members who will join Charles Town’s Hall of Fame on Dec. 15..

The Hall of Fame is made up of individuals and horses with ties to Charles Town who  have displayed superior performance or achievement in their careers in racing.  Candidates are voted on and inducted in one of four categories: distinguished achievement, horse, industry, and jockey. 

Due to a tie in the voting, two members were chosen in the distinguished achievement category this year. The new class joins 32 other members who were inducted the previous three years.

In addition to Runco, the other inductees are Bill Hartack and Dr. Dale Keyser (distinguished achievement), Cortan and Onion Juice (horse), Eddie Maple and William R. Lewis (jockey), and Dr. William Trussell (industry)

Runco, well on his way to his sixth straight leading trainer title at Charles Town, won his 3,000th career race in April 2011. He is one of only eight trainers in the United States to have reached that milestone while maintaining a win percentage of at least 20 percent. He won the Charles Town Classic twice with Researcher and owns three wins in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic. He was chosen to enter the Hall of Fame  in the Industry category.

Hartack, who died in 2007, began his career in racing at Charles Town in 1949 and rode his first winner at West Virginia’s Waterford Park in 1952.  He lad all riders in wins during Charles Town’s 1952 meet and, by his third season, Hartack was the leading jockey in the U.S., an honor he would go on to win three more times.   Included in his 4,272 winners are five victories in the Kentucky Derby, three in the Preakness,  and one in the Belmont Stakes.  Hartack also became the first jockey with $3 million in purse earnings in a one year and retired in 1981, following a brief stint riding in Hong Kong.

Keyser was a long-time practicing veterinarian in Jefferson County who originally came to Charles Town to do an internship with fellow 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Trussell at Trussell’s veterinary practice. He went on to be a longtime official for the West Virginia Racing Commission and West Virginia Department of Agriculture prior to his death in 2008.

Trussell, who lived from 1907 to 1989, was a well-known veterinarian in Jefferson County for more than a half-century.  In addition to his private practice, Trussell served as the track veterinarian at Charles Town and Shenandoah Downs from 1934 through 1971.

Cortan was known for his Mid-Atlantic rivalry with fellow Charles Town Hall of Famer Jiva Coolit, Cortan won nearly 28 of  60 career starts, and displayed versatility by winning at distances ranging from 3 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

Onion Juice won 27 of 65 lifetime starts in a career that spanned from his 2-year-old season in 1982 through 1988.  While eight of those wins came in stakes, none was bigger than his victory in the inaugural running of the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic in 1987. 

Maple won his first race at age 17 aboard Swami in 1966 at Charles Town. He began his career in Ohio and West Virginia and moved on to New Jersey before establishing himself in New York in 1971.  During a career that lasted until 1998, Maple won 4,398 races and was elected to the National Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.

Lewis had a decorated riding career that saw him ride 2,647 winners, with the last coming in 2009.  Lewis won four races in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic program, including the inaugural running of the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic aboard Onion Juice.