12/10/2015 1:20PM

McKee high on homegrown Aye a Song in Casey Memorial

Coady Photography
Aye a Song will start in Saturday's Eleanor Casey Memorial at Charles Town.

The Eleanor Casey Memorial at Charles Town on Saturday night honors the family matriarch, who with her husband, James W. Casey, founded nearby Taylor Mountain Farm. Eleanor Casey died in 2005 after being injured during a training-hours accident at Charles Town.

The $50,000 Casey Memorial, a seven-furlong race for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old fillies, has drawn a full field of 10, plus two also-eligibles. The Casey family will be well represented as John Casey, Eleanor’s son, has four horses in the body of the race, and James W. Casey also has a runner.

But the Casey Memorial goes straight though Aye a Song, the top statebred filly of 2015. Owned, bred, and trained by Charles Town, W.Va., native John McKee, she is 4 for 5 with $134,265 in earnings. Her lone loss came by a neck to Bullets Fever, a colt who is undefeated in three starts.

Both Aye a Song and Bullets Fever are by Fiber Sonde, a son of Unbridled’s Song whom McKee stands for $1,000 on one of his three parcels of land.

“We bred him to 92 mares last year,” said McKee, 76. “The Jockey Club told me that’s the most mares ever bred to a West Virginia stallion in a year.”

McKee also knows Aye a Song’s female family well. He purchased her third dam, Traveling Treat, in 1991. Although she was a claiming horse, McKee gave her a chance as a broodmare.

“I felt that a horse as game as that filly was, she’d make a good mare,” McKee said. “I still feel that way about horses today.”

Traveling Treat produced nine foals for McKee, who has trained at Charles Town since 1969. Her daughter Aye Jacoby produced eight, and Aye a Song is the third foal out of Aye Robbin, a daughter of Aye Jacoby.

“That certainly makes her success more special,” McKee said. “I question whether she’s the best filly I’ve had, but she has earned the most money at 2.”

McKee considers 15-time winner Rachel’s Turn his best filly. Aye a Song won the Rachel’s Turn Stakes at Charles Town in September.

McKee knows the Casey Memorial won’t be an easy race to win, especially from post 10.

“When you’re on top of the division, the others will take shots at you,” he said. “I figure John Casey is going to send one of his fillies after me early.”