Photo of Direct the Cat by Coady Photography.
by Ted Black, courtesy of TheRacingBiz.com.
Among the first four races on the card on Saturday night for the 37th edition of the West Virginia Breeders Classics were a pair of two-turn events state-bred for juveniles, and the results suggested the winners will be heard from again later this fall and well into the future.
That may be especially true of Direct the Cat, winner of the $75,000 West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classics for two-year-old fillies. Direct the Cat, with Reshawn Latchman up, gave her backers and connections a few anxious moments right after the break, but within a matter of strides she had worked her way to the front and she simply romped home as much the best a dozen lengths clear as the 1-5 favorite for her second straight stakes score by getting the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19.28 for owner-trainer Cynthia McKee.
Direct the Cat now has won three straight, and while the first two – by combined margins of nearly 18 lengths – were impressive, this one answered any lingering questions. This filly’s not only fast, but she also can carry her speed.
“I was sick all week worried about this filly,” McKee said after Direct the Cat notched her third win in five career outings and pushed her lifetime bankroll past $110,000. “I was worried how she would handle the distance. I was worried how she would handle the sloppy track. I was just worried sick all week. But she overcame it all to win tonight. She’s really, really nice. I think she’ll stay here to go in the Eleanor Casey and the West Virginia Futurity then she’ll go to the farm after that.”
Direct the Cat, a daughter of new stallion Redirect, crossed the wire with a time that was more than three-fifths faster than that recorded by the boys in the opener.
In that boys race, the $75,000 West Virginia Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders Classic, both the winner and runner-up have become well acquainted in recent months and will likely see more of one in the near future.
Jubawithatwist (Gustavo Larrosa) and King Kontie (Fredy Peltroche) had dead-heated for the win in the $75,000 Henry Mercer Memorial Stakes here 15 days earlier and those two would vie for favoritism, with Jubawithatwist going off at 3-5, while King Kontie was 7-5. Every other horse was in double digits.
Once again, the duo would be virtually inseparable through much the race. In almost an instant replay of the Mercer, King Kontie carved out most of the early fractions, then was joined by Jubawithatwist on the far turn. This time, though, despite running erratically, there was some daylight between them at the wire as Jubawithatwist prevailed by 1 ½ lengths as the 3-5 favorite in 1:19.97.
A juvenile son of Juba owned and trained by Kristy Petty, Jubawithatwist notched his second straight stakes tally – actually his first one outright – and now owns three wins and just over $110,000 banked from five career tries. Third two starts back in the Timonium Juvenile and second one race prior in the Hickory Tree Stakes at Colonial Downs, Jubawithatwist impressed his rider and owner-trainer with his gritty effort.
“I really think he’s going to be even better at three,” said Larrosa, who eventually would win the first three races on the card, with all three winners sired by Juba. “He’s getting better with each start. Today I knew I could sit just off the speed and then let him go a little on the far turn. I had plenty of horse and when that other one [King Kontie] fought back a little, he really dug in for me.”
“He was training great since that last race,” Petty said. “He lugged in a little bit late in the Mercer and that probably cost him the [outright] win. But tonight he was in a perfect spot the whole way. I had every confidence that he would go by that other horse tonight. He lugged in a little but again, but then once Gustavo got him straightened away, he was really good.”
“She got squeezed a little bit at the start, but once she settled into stride, she was really good,” Latchman said. “She’s got so much natural speed and she’s very talented. Once she made the lead down the backside she was doing it on her own after that. She’s really nice.”