It was a bittersweet moment for owner Mark Russell, but he said it’s too soon to say the torch has been passed.
Russell’s Charitable Annuity, the lone 3-year-old in a field of 10, exploded on the last of three turns and drew away to win the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races the evening of Oct. 10. But his other runner, 9-year-old Russell Road, checked in ninth in his attempt to win the lucrative state-bred stakes for the fourth time.
“I’m very excited about Charitable Annuity and what he could do in the future,” Russell said. “On the other hand I’m disappointed how things worked out for Russell Road. He was in good position but he just didn’t have it tonight. I checked with (jockey Jose Montano), and he said he came out of the race fine.
“We’ll check him out and see how he is; maybe he bled. Yes, this very well could be it, but what a journey it has been. It’s so hard to explain when you have as much love for an animal as this one.”
Russell Road, trained by James W. Casey, has won 30 times for earnings of $1,964,366. But he has come back before when it appeared it may be time to wrap it up, so Russell Saturday night said it’s too early to make a decision.
Charitable Annuity, a gelding by Charitable Man out of the Luftikus mare Early Annuity, entered the Classic with five wins in eight starts, all this year. He had never raced beyond seven furlongs, but clearly had no problem with the 1 1/8 miles.
Hidden Canyon, a nine-time winner in 13 starts heading into the Classic, also hadn’t raced farther than seven furlongs. He led the way through honest fractions of :23.23 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.26 for a half-mile, and 1:12.85 for six furlongs with Lucy's Bob Boy and Prince of Windsor not far behind.
Hidden Canyon disposed of those two on the far turn and opened by a length and half into the stretch, but by that time jockey Antonio Lopez had Charitable Annuity in high hear. He blew past and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Hidden Canyon, who held off the rallying Little Big Sime by a nose for second. Lucy’s Bob Boy finished fourth.
Charitable Annuity, also trained by Casey, covered the distance in 1:52.06 on a fast track and paid $13.80 to win as the fourth choice.
“He’s getting better and better,” said Casey, who owns Taylor Mountain Farm, where the stallion Charitable Man stands. “He has shown a lot of ability. We thought he’d relish the distance, and he didn’t prove us wrong.”
“The barn has been excited about the horse for a while,” Russell said. “He always had a ton of ability, but he just couldn’t get it wired together. He was fine in the barn but would carry on when he was on the track. He finally figured it out, though, and we think there are better things to come with him.”
Charitable Annuity, who won the state-bred Robert G. Leavitt Memorial Stakes at Charles Town in August, now has six wins in nine starts. The winner’s share of the Classic purse pushed his earnings to $328,100.
It also was a big night for Donald Duvall. Charitable Annuity is the first horse he ever bred.
"We're going to bring Donald into this slowly," Russell said with a laugh.
Business was good for the nine-race all-stakes West Virginia Breeders Classics program. Erich Zimny, vice president of racing at Charles Town, said it was only the third WVBC program to top $1.5 million in pari-mutuel handle. This year's figure is up about 25% from 2014, he said.