Penguin Power won the 2020 Onion Juice. Photo by Coady Photography.
by Ted Black, courtesy of TheRacingBiz.com
For much of the past 20 years, owner David Raim has enjoyed ample success on West Virginia Breeders Classics night with horses trained by Jeff Runco. That includes victories from T Rex Express, Golden Set, Bullets Fever and Penguin Power, the two-time defending champion of the Onion Juice.
On October 9 Raim could be headed for his most lucrative outing as an owner with the potential favorite in three events, including the $150,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic.
Raim’s horses have recorded 145 victories and earned just over $3.5 million lifetime, with T Rex Express leading the way and Golden Set, Penguin Power and the unbeaten Bullets Fever not far behind. Despite that success, thus far the Classic has eluded Raim.
He will, however, send out the likely favorite in that event in Muad’dib. That runner, a full-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Late Night Pow Wow, is perfect through seven starts to date.
Muad’dib earned his seventh straight win and first in stakes company August 27 when he took the Frank Gall Memorial over the strip. In that race he rallied from mid-flight to the lead and then just held off stablemate North Atlantic to win by a neck.
“I really hope Muad’dib wins the Classic,” Raim said of the unbeaten son of Fiber Sonde, who captured the $75,000 Gall Memorial in his stakes debut despite a rough beginning. “That would really mean a lot to me and to Jeff. He’s done everything right so far. He also overcame so much to win the Gall. It’s exciting to watch him run and it’s going to be a very exciting night.”
Raim enjoyed his best season with Runco in 2019 when his runners collected 22 wins and earned just shy of $500,000 from 64 starts. Through last weekend’s races, Raim’s runners had posted 15 wins and earned just over $375,000. While his previous best win total (22) may not be eclipsed on Breeders’ Classics night, a big night by his runners could enable him to establish a new personal seasonal earnings mark.
“I’m excited to see how Muad’dib, Penguin Power and Run to Daylight will do,” Raim said. “Muad’dib has done everything right so far. Penguin Power has a chance. I thought Run to Daylight ran a big race [in the Henry Mercer]. I think he’ll be okay going two turns for the first time [in the Vincent Moscarelli Memoral BC]. I’m excited, but I’m also a little nervous.”
While it may be a little early to compare Run to Daylight with Muad’dib, the juvenile Runhappy gelding is certainly off to a fast start. Run to Daylight encountered little trouble while taking the Henry Mercer Memorial last September 18 by nearly six lengths and, if all goes to plan, will try two turns for the first time in the Moscarelli.
Penguin Power will arrive as the two-time defending champion of the Onion Juice, but the six-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding has yet to finish in the money in three starts this year for Runco and Raim. He sports 13 wins from 21 lifetime tries, and he exits the ultra-tough Gall where Runco trainees Muad’dib and North Atlantic finished one-two and will now both head for the Classic.
Runco will also saddle the likely favorite for the $100,000 Cavada in Star of Night, a winner of all three of her starts this year and nine of 11 overall for Huntertown Farm.
Raim and Runco also hope to point The Sky Is Falling to the Triple Crown Nutrition BC for two-year-old fillies. The Sky Is Falling won at first asking but then settled for fifth in the $75,000 Rachel’s Turn Stakes for state-bred two-year-old fillies last weekend, a race in which she seemed a bit outfooted. Unlike Run to Daylight, The Sky Is Falling does not possess much early speed and has attempted to rally from well off the pace in both starts. Runco intimated that the 6 1/2-furlongs of the Triple Crown Nutrition BC might be far more suitable for her running style.