Photo by Coady Photography.
by Frank Vespe, courtesy of TheRacingBiz.com.
Trainer Kristy Petty knew that this West Virginia Breeders Classics night, her first without longtime partner John A. Casey, who passed away earlier this year, would be different from prior years. But in one crucial respect, it turned out to be very similar, indeed.
For the second consecutive year, she saddled Hessica, a four-year-old Juba filly, to a win in the $125,000 West Virginia Cavada Breeders Classic, the top race for the distaff set on the card.
“I just wish John [Casey] was here to see her win it again,” Petty said afterwards. “She had been training really good since her last start and was able to work out a great trip tonight. It’s really something special to win this race two times in a row.”
Jockey Antonio Lopez regularly pilots Hessica but missed her last start, when she finished third in allowance company. He was back aboard this evening and was able to give the filly a close to perfect trip.
Full Moon Lover, Lucylou Who, and Foxy Sista made the early running as a trio, throwing down a quarter-mile in a sharp 22.95 seconds over a sloppy, sealed main track.
Lopez, meanwhile, had Hessica four lengths back and biding her time comfortably. She rounded the far turn three wide while reeling in the leaders, reaching even terms with Lucylou Who and then pulling away to win by 4 ½ lengths in 1:26.63.
“The last couple of times I rode her she made the front turning for home, then she started waiting on horses a little bit,” Lopez said. “But tonight she was close to the pace the whole way. When I asked her to run, she was good and she didn’t look around. She just really responded for me in the lane.”
Hessica now has six wins and over $270,000 in earnings from 23 starts. Lucylou Who ran well to hold second narrowly over post time favorite The Sky Is Falling, who rallied from last without posing a threat to the winner.
Hessica paid $10,80 to win and topped an exacta that returned $25.10 for a one-dollar wager.
As for the future, Petty indicated this would likely conclude Hessica’s season, but that a threepeat bid could be in her future.
“It’s really something special to win this race two times in a row,” she said. “She’ll get a little time off now and then we’ll bring her back next year and try to win this one again.”