Photo by Coady Photography.
by Ted Black, courtesy of TheRacingBiz.com
A lot has changed at Charles Town Races over the last five years, but one remarkable thing has remained constant: you can count on the durable, versatile and apparently ageless Penguin Power to win on Breeders Classics night. The eight-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding has won a record-setting five Breeders Classics races.
Trained by Jeff Runco for owner David Raim, Penguin Power rallied from just off the pace to forge a mild 5-1 upset in the $75,000 West Virginia Dash for Cash BC at the one-turn distance of 4 1/2 furlongs October 14. Considered a two-turn specialist through much of his career, including three straight wins in the Onion Juice BC from 2019-21, Penguin Power has now transitioned into a one-turn sprint specialist and triumphed in the Dash for Cash for a second straight year.
“He’s just had a remarkable career, and the best part is it does not appear coming to an end anytime soon,” Raim said of Penguin Power, a winner twice in six starts this year and 19 times in 36 career outings with lifetime earnings a dollar shy of $570,000. “Jeff has done such a remarkable job training him. He had a few minor injuries early in his career, and now his races are spaced out a little bit.”
With Arnaldo Bocachica up in the Dash for Cash, Penguin Power broke from the eight-hole with just one horse, 26-1 shot Youthinkthatsfunny, outside of him. Always within a few lengths of the leader, Penguin Power rallied on the outside to overtake leader Golden Key to win by a length, with Youthinkthatsfunny rallying into second over Golden Key, who held third.
“Having an outside post definitely helped the other night,” Raim said. “When he turned for home, he was determined to catch the horses in front of him, and he was determined not to let any of them catch him from behind.”
In addition to winning the last two runnings of the Dash for Cash and the three prior editions of the Onion Juice, Penguin Power also boasts a win in the one-mile and one-eighth A Huevo Stakes [now renamed the Randy Funkhouser Memorial]. He also has acquitted himself well in open stakes at Laurel, placing in the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Dave’s Friend.
With his races spaced well apart and his schedule typically consisting of six or seven races, Penguin Power could still have more campaigns ahead of him.
“What a cool horse,” Runco said of Penguin Power moments after the won the Dash for Cash. “He’s really remarkable. I mean, for years he was a really, really good two-turn sprinter up here, and now he’s gotten older and transitioned into a one-turn sprinter. With him, it’s always about the trip. When he draws well and can sit a trip, he’s going to be tough to beat. He’ll tell us when it’s time to stop with him, but for now he hasn’t given us any indication that he wants to stop racing.”
Jockey Arnaldo Bocachica, who guided Penguin Power to victory in that event and all five of his WVBC stakes scores to date, appeared in awe of the veteran campaigner’s durability and versatility. Bocachica, who would later win both the $300,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic on Coastal Mission for Runco and the Roger Ramey Distaff aboard Someday Is Today for trainer Anthony Farrior, remains constantly impressed with the aging runner.
“He’s been able to win stakes here from 4 1/2 furlongs to a mile-and-an-eighth,” said Bocachica, who had also piloted the Runco trainee to his victory in the A Huevo in 2019 weeks after taking the Onion Juice and the Frank Gall Memorial that year. “I mean, there are not many horses that can say that. He’s still got plenty of early speed, and he knows how to finish. If he doesn’t have any trouble early in the race, he’s going to be tough to beat in the lane.”
Raim also owns two-time reigning West Virginia-bred horse of the year Muad’dib, who finished second to Coastal Mission in the Sam Huff Classic on WVBC night after winning that event the two previous years. He knows how fragile a horse’s career can be. But the old youngster still gets him thinking ahead.
“Penguin Power is such an amazing horse,” Raim said. “He’s been able to win at one turn, two turns, and at three turns. Jeff has done such an amazing job with him over the years. You know, watching him run the other night and come back to the winners’ circle, he still acts like he wants to keep racing. He’ll tell us when he wants to retire, but right now he looks like he can run six or seven times next year and then maybe the year after that.”