Sam Huff is better known for his career as a pro football player, but he's also a Thoroughbred owner with a real passion for the game. This year, he realized a dream when total purses for the West Virginia Breeders Classics series hit $1 million.
On Saturday night at Charles Town Races, eight Classics races will go for $850,000, including $250,000 for the Classic itself. Divisional prep races held at the West Virginia track earlier were worth $150,000.
The first West Virginia Breeders Classics was held in 1987. Huff, who founded the series, said it was a bit tough getting the money to initiate the program for state-breds, which followed on the heels of the Maryland Million. With a funding mechanism in place, and a revitalized Charles Town Races as the host, the series is well-established.
"Breeders Classics One was one of the greatest days in my life," Huff said Saturday morning during his annual "Breakfast of Champions" to benefit the Racetrack Chaplaincy Program. "I don't remember all the horses that won, but I do remember Onion Juice winning the big race."
Onion Juice, a local legend, now has a Classics event for 3-year-olds an up at seven furlongs named after him.
The "Breakfast of Champions," hosted by ESPN commentator Chris Lincoln and held in the clubhouse at Charles Town Races, gives attendees a chance to meet former Washington Redskins and other National Football League players. Almost $1,000 was raised when baskets were passed around for those who wished to donate to the chaplaincy program.
On Friday night, the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association held its horsemen's night, which featured three $50,000 stakes and a minimum purse of no less than $20,000. Total purses for the weekend topped $1 million, a record for Charles Town Races.