Charles Town's Dunkelberger rides Baby Shark to record

August 10, 2003|by LARRY YANOS

Charles Town-based jockey Travis Dunkelberger journeyed to another West Virginia thoroughbred oval on Saturday and turned in a record performance.

The 26-year-old Dunkelberger rode Baby Shark to a new track record at the Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, covering the 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.28 seconds, in the $85,000-added West Virginia Legislature "Chairman's Cup."

The race was one of seven stakes races on the impressive West Virginia Derby Day card.

"Worth the trip," a smiling Dunkelberger said after the race. "He stumbled at the break but picked his head up quickly and went about his business. He's a tough runner."

Dunkelberger, who returns to race-riding this afternoon at Charles Town, has been riding primarily in Maryland and West Virginia this year.


"I'm not riding as much as I did last year but I still feel I'm having a good year," Dunkelberger said.

Before Saturday's race, Dunkelberger journeyed to Miami on July 12 and guided Baby Shark to victory in the $50,000 Rocket Man Stakes at the Calder Race Course.

"The track today was much the same as Calder - sandy," Dunkelberger said. "He handled the track very well after stumbling at the start."

The 5-year-old Baby Shark now has seven wins, six second-place finishes and two third-place finishes from 17 career starts.

Baby Shark's trainer, Benny Feliciano, didn't make the trip to Chester.

Soto's record-breaker

Once again, Saturday's $600,000 West Virginia Derby attracted some of the finest 3-year-old thoroughbreds in the country.

Soto turned in a record-breaking performance, winning the 1 1/8-mile test by a neck over Dynever.

Soto, ridden by Maryland-based jockey Ramon Dominguez, covered the distance in 1:46.29 - a new track record.

It was the fifth straight win for the unbeaten Soto and Dominguez was his fifth different jockey.

"One reason or another, we keep changing jockeys," winning trainer Michael Dickinson said following the race. "We were concerned whether Soto could go a mile-and-an-eighth but he held on."

Soto had won previously at Philadelphia Park, Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Delaware Park.

"He's a super horse, I was impressed the way he won - effortlessly," Dominguez said. "I was surprised at getting the early lead but, he was comfortable and I let him go. When the other horse (Dynever) came to us at mid-stretch, he looked him in the eye and went on. He's a classy horse."

Dominguez said giving up his mounts in Maryland for the journey to Chester, W.Va., was well worth it.

The complete order of finish: Soto, Dynever, Colita, Supah Blitz, Mobil, Coax Kid, Cat Singer, Miss Karry TheNews and Dr. E.D. Claire.

Outta Here, During and Lone Star Sky were late scratches.

Derby doings

  • With a $600,000 purse, the West Virginia Derby was the richest race run anywhere in North America on Saturday. The purse distribution of $1.2 million (which included seven stakes races) was also the richest at any North America racetrack on Saturday.

  • The Eclipse Awards are thoroughbred racing's most prestigious year-end honors, and two former recipients, Jose Santos and Jorge Chavez - are jockeys with West Virginia Derby mounts.

Santos was the Eclipse Award outstanding journeyman in 1988 and Chavez captured a similar award in 1999.

Hine leads inductees

The late Hubert "Sonny" Hine, who once trained horses at Charles Town and Hagerstown, led four inductees into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame this past Monday.

Mike Smith was enshrined in the jockey category and the elected horses were Precisionist in the male thoroughbred category and Dance Smartly in the female category.

Hine's "big horse" was Skip Away.

The trainer purchased the thoroughbred as a 2-year-old for $22,500 at auction as a birthday gift to his wife, Carolyn. Skip Away went on to win 16 stakes races and more than $9.6 million in career earnings. He also claimed Horse of the Year honors in 1998.

Hine died in 2000.

  • The 37-year-old Smith, who rode Holy Bull, Skip Away, Coronado's Quest, Prairie Bayou, Versailles Treaty and Fourstars Allstar, had more than 4,000 career victories and 10 Breeders' Cup titles. After breaking his back in a spill at Saratoga Race Course in 1998, Smith enjoyed a career resurgence at West Coast tracks, riding horses such as Vindication and Azeri.

  • Dance Smartly won 12 of 17 starts between 1990 and '92, and finished with two seconds and three thirds. She was the first filly to win Canada's Triple Crown races of the Queen's Plate, Prince of Wales Stakes and Breeders' Stakes and was the winner of the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old fillies in 1991.

  • Precisionist was a champion sprinter in 1986, and also won Grade I stakes races at a mile, 1 1/14 miles, 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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