08/06/2016 5:25PM

Hawaakom runs down Departing in West Virginia Governor's Stakes

Coady Photography
Jockey Miguel Mena rides Hawaakom to victory in the West Virginia Governor's Cup on Saturday.

The trainer Wes Hawley claimed Hawaakom for $15,000 in November 2014 at Churchill Downs, and if you watch a head-on view of Hawaakom’s foreleg paddling crazily about, you can see why his previous connections ran him for that price. But Hawley, long a master of the claiming game, knows how to manage problems, and Hawaakom has pretty much gone nowhere but up for Hawley and his co-owner Stephan Smoot.

Already a solid high-end allowance horse, Hawaakom won his first stakes Saturday, flashing home under Miguel Mena to run down favored Departing in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Cup at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort.

Departing, racing surprisingly close to Mobile Bay’s moderate pace of 24.11 and 47.39 seconds, took over at the quarter pole, opened up a two-length lead at the stretch call, and appeared to be on his way to victory. But Departing had moved to the front while racing perilously near a deep, tiring rail, and there came Hawaakom, rallying wide and quickly getting to the leader. Hawaakom caught him in the final half-furlong and powered home a 1 1/4-length winner, a far cry from the struggling conditioned claimer Hawley claimed two autumns ago.

Departing was easily second-best, finishing more than three lengths in front of Allied Air Raid. Hawaakom ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44 and paid $21 to win. The 6-year-old Hawaakom, bred by Shadwell Farm, is by Jazil and out of the Lahib mare Nafisah. He won for the seventh time in 27 starts and pushed his career earnings above $300,00 with the $116,200 winner’s share of the purse.

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