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Acosta off to great start in 2008

AT THE RACES -

April 06, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

J.D. Acosta got out of the starting gate in a hurry in 2008 and claimed the jockeys' title for the Winter Meet at Charles Town Races & Slots.

The 26-year-old rider won 38 races in January and six more in early February to boost him above his competition.

Acosta gained 85 wins, 61 seconds and 53 thirds in 348 starts during the Winter Meet, which ended March 30.

The jockey won 24 percent of his starts and was in the money in 67 percent of his mounts.

He was followed in the Winter Meet standings by Xavier Perez (39 wins), Gerald Almodovar (35), Travis Dunkelberger (28), Grant Whitacre (25), Luis Perez (22), Oscar Flores (22), Arnaldo Bocachica (21), Rodney Sooden (19) and Larry Reynolds (16).

Acosta is second in races won nationally in 2008 with 102, trailing only California-based jockey Russell Baze (126).

Acosta's terrific start comes on the heels of a memorable end of 2007, when he registered his 1,000th career victory in December.

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Acosta, who won Charles Town's 2006 and 2007 overall jockey titles, is in his sixth full year of riding at the track. He has been among the top five riders in each of his first five seasons.

n Jeff Runco captured the trainers' title for Charles Town's Winter Meet.

He saddled 208 horses and had 40 wins, 35 seconds and 36 thirds. His win percentage was 19 percent and his horses were in the money 53 percent of the time.

Stephanie Beattie finished second in the trainers' standings with 33 trips to the winner's circle, followed by Ronney Brown (22), Julio Cartagena (20), Ryan Beattie (13), Scott Lake (12), Timothy Grams (11), Ollie Figgins III (11), Kelsey Cartagena and David Walters (8 each).

n Lucy Colleen, Bird of War, Southern Trieste, Mt. Ida, Warrior's Mettle, Mr. Emancipator, Savethebestforlass and Unbridled Gold all registered three wins from three starts during the first three months of 2008 at Charles Town.

Bast kicks back

Gerald "Barney" Bast, associated with Charles Town for 42 years, is enjoying retirement.

"I'm still around the racetrack almost every day, but I don't have the day-to-day duties like I once did," the 78-year-old retired trainer said.

Bast was born and raised in the Tilghmanton area of Washington County and got his first taste of the racetrack scene in the 1930s.

According to statistics supplied by Equibase, Bast sent 6,015 horses to the starting gate since 1976 and they registered 755 wins, 740 seconds and 691 thirds with overall earnings of $3,519,562.

Records kept by the Daily Racing Form before that time were not available.

"It was tough work, but it was fun," Bast said. "Over the years, I met some wonderful folks at the racetrack. Hard workers, good people. Everyone, both management and horsemen, have been very kind to me and my wife, Maryann."

Many observers would refer to Bast as a "blue-collar" trainer. Over the years, he had few outstanding allowance horses, but he was usually competitive in claiming races throughout the region.

Bast started working at the racetrack in 1945 and finally received his trainers' license in 1966.

"I was an assistant for Skelly Gheen, Maryann's dad, and he taught me a lot about horse racing. He was around Charles Town for a long time and really knew the game," Bast said. "My wife helped me with horses for 35 years. Good help was hard to find and still is hard to find. She was of great help."

Did Bast have any favorite horses?

"I'd say Jackyscraftychance, Mountaineer Jett and Par For The Course stand out in my mind," Bast said. "I did have some good claiming horses. JackysCraftychance won a lot of races, including a $40,000 stakes race on Owners' Day in the early 2000s. That was the biggest purse I ever won. Mountaineer Jett and Par For The Course also won some nice races."

Bast spent most of his training career conditioning horses at Charles Town and Shenandoah Downs, but did spend one full year at Delaware Park and ran many horses at the Maryland half-mile tracks, including Hagerstown.

"I liked Hagerstown," Bast said. "It was only a 10-day meet and the stands were always packed. Folks over there really liked their horse racing. It was standing room only on Saturdays."

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