Claiming becomes a race in claiming races

March 28, 2004|by LARRY YANOS

Bibye was very popular at Charles Town Races & Slots on Wednesday.

The 6-year-old thorougbred was entered in an $18,500 claiming race for 4-year-olds-and-upwards at a 1-1/16 mile and really drew a crowd.

"We had 28 claims in for the horse ... Incredible ... Amazing," Charles Town racing secretary Jimmy Hammond said. "I've never seen anything like it. (Owners and trainers) aren't bashful when it comes to claiming horses."

The last couple of years, Hammond has referred to the West Virginia thoroughbred racetrack as the "Claiming Capital of the World" and Wednesday's performance did nothing to change his mind.


"I can remember a time when we didn't have 28 claims in a long period, let alone 28 in one race," Hammond said. "And now they're claiming everything. It used to be mainly the $5,000 horses now it's anything up to the $25,000 claimers."

Hammond said the racing secretary's office handled 404 claims through March 20 this year - including 38 in four days last week.

"It seems if we don't have 45 claims a week, something is wrong," Hammond said.

With jockey Juan Ortega in the irons, Bibye finished third in Wednesday's sixth race and was claimed by owner J. Colaucci.

"I don't know what makes the horse so popular," Hammond said. "He can cover a distance and usually picks up a check, maybe that's what's appealing to the owners and trainers."

Bibye, a Canadian-bred, came to Charles Town from the Fort Erie Racetrack, near Toronto.

He promptly won two straight races and also shows a second-, third- and a fourth-place finish.

"He ran in $2,500 open company last year," Hammond said. "He has career earnings of over $148,000 so he does have some back class."

Stakes at stake

The West Virginia State Racing Commission has approved Charles Town's 2004 stakes schedule which will be worth more than $2 million in purses over 36 races.

"It's a nice stakes schedule and the purses keep increasing," Hammond said. "Everything was raised from $40,000 to $50,000 and the prep races for the West Virginia Breeders Classics races have increased from $35,000 to $40,000."

As usual, West Virginia Breeders Classics Day on Oct. 9 and the Charles Town Dash on July 4 will showcase the stakes slate.

"It's a very attractive stakes schedule," said Ann Hilton, president of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Two stakes races are in the current condition book - the $35,000-added Potomac Stakes on April 10 for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs and the $50,000-added Springtime Stakes on April 24 for 3-year-olds-and-upwards at 7 furlongs.

Pony tales

* A teacher and three students from Hampshire High School in Romney, W.Va. paid a visit to Charles Town last week.

"They were interested in horse racing and possible careers in this business and I gave them a tour," Hilton said. "They went to the finish line and also viewed the History Wall. They seemed to enjoy it."

* It's not too often that Sam Huff is satisfied with finishing second.

After a tough week, the president of the West Virginia Breeders Classics., Ltd. journeyed to Laurel Park last Tuesday and watched his Cats Tower finish second in a 1-1/16th mile race.

"You always want to win but the effort by Cats Tower brought a smile to my face following some rough times," Huff said. "She ran her heart out and made up some ground against the favorite."

Earlier this month, Bursting Forth - owned by Huff - was euthanized due to complications from a still born foal by Gone West.

The 10-year-old Bursting Forth earned $625,000 lifetime.

* Russell Reineman, who sold War Emblem less than a month before the horse won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died last Tuesday. He was 86.

Reineman didn't think War Emblem was good enough to run in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. So he sold the nearly black colt to the late Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. for $900,000 in April 2002, keeping a 10 percent stake.

Twenty-five days later, War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby, the first of three $1 million races he would win for trainer Bob Baffert.

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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