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Claiming game is super to Campbells

December 11, 2005|By Larry Yanos

Claiming horses proved to be a profitable venture again at Charles Town Races & Slots this year, with Donald Campbell and son, William, at the head of the class when it came to cashing in a good opportunity.

On Oct. 9, thoroughbreds owned and trained by the Campbells finished first and second in the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic.

The winner, Speed Whiz, was once claimed by the Campbells for $15,000, while runner-up Slew's Smile was a $5,000 purchase.

"We put up $20,000 and got back $337,000 ... a hell of a return on your money," Donald Campbell said. "The winner returned $225,000 and second place was worth $112,000."

Donald, a Maryland-based trainer, just laughs when discussing the turn of events that October evening.

"I watched it (the race) from my couch," the conditioner said. "I'm 70 years old and why drive all the way to Charles Town and fight that crowd when I get sit here in my home and look at it. I almost fell off the couch when I saw Speed Whiz pull away and I almost fell off the couch when I saw Slew's Smile move into second."

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Speed Whiz was claimed from James W. Casey while Slew's Smile was claimed from Hank Stehr.

"Both horses were a little off form, but the price was right, according to my son," Donald said. "I wasn't too keen on Speed Whiz. Billy put up all the money because I wasn't about to spend $15,000 on a horse that was 1-for-24 lifetime. I was more receptive to the Slew's Smile claim. I own half of that horse."

The Campbells first claimed Slew's Smile for $10,000, lost him for $16,000 and eventually got him back for $5,000.

"He had been running short races but they weren't filling at Charles Town and we decided to send him long," Campbell said. "He won by 11 lengths at a mile-and-a-16th, continued to show improvement, and we thought he could compete in the big race. We were right."

As for Speed Whiz?

"I knew Mr. Casey always ran him in big company, but I still wasn't excited when I saw him in for $15,000. When my son claimed him, I said, 'Are you crazy?' Things have worked out, though."

Campbell quickly noticed that Speed Whiz was a big, long-legged horse who may like more distance.

"We tried him in some longer races and felt comfortable putting him in the big race because he was doing so well," Campbell said. "He really ran a tough race, he ran away from them."

Donald Campbell has been training horses since 1969, while 29-year-old William got into the business about seven years ago.

They currently have five horses in partnership at Bowie.

"I'm Maryland-based but I've run a lot of horses at Charles Town over the years," Donald Campbell said.

Ironically, Speed Whiz and Slew's Smile both finished last in races following the Breeders Classic.

"As they say, that's horse racing," Donald said. "Speed Whiz finished last at Laurel and came away with a lung infection. Slew's Smile got knocked around at Charles Town and wound up last."

Making the Grade

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association has presented its listing of U.S. Graded Stakes for 2006 and the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs has been upgraded to Grade II status.

The committee reviewed 734 unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to 475 races, eight more than were graded in 2005.

A total of 11 graded races were upgraded, including four new Grade I races and seven new Grade II races. Twelve new Grade III races were identified.

Four races were upgraded to Grade I status for 2006: The Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder, Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, and Oak Leaf Stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

No races were downgraded from Grade I to Grade II for 2006.

Seven races were upgraded to Grade II status for 2006: The Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs, Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park, Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct, Jenny Wiley Stakes and Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland and Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap at Saratoga.

Two races were downgraded from Grade II to Grade III in 2006: The Pan American Handicap and Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Twelve races were upgraded to Grade III status for 2006: The Sham Stakes, Sir Beaufort Stakes, and Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita Park, Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds, Dallas Turf Cup Handicap at Lone Star Park, John B. Connally Breeders' Cup Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park, Ack Ack Handicap at Hollywood Park, Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap and Stage Door Betty Handicap at Calder, Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes at Turfway Park, Arlington Oaks at Arlington Park, and Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga.

Three races were downgraded from Grade III to Ungraded status for 2006: The Flash Stakes at Belmont Park, Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, and Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park.

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