Swift times hallmark Mountaineer opener

CHESTER?- Following an eight-week break, live Thoroughbred racing returned to Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort on Saturday. The 2014 season, which extends from the first day of March through late December, will encompass 210 race cards at a track whose history now spans nearly 6 decades.

Saturday’s opening night feature, the $37,100 Welcome Back Dash, was won by Musicinthehouse, the 3-2 second choice in the field of seven . The four-year-old gelding caught the pace-setting 7-5 favorite Jasizzle in mid-stretch and methodically moved on the outside to a 1 -length advantage at the wire.

With Luis Martinez Jr. aboard, Musicinthehouse registered a final clocking for the five-furlong event of :56.17 on a fast track. It was the swiftest time for five panels at Mountaineer in more than two years.

Musicinthebox returned $5.00, $2.40 and $2.40, and earned a winner’s share of $22,631 for owner/trainer Maria E. Pinzon. Jasizzle, who won last year’s edition of the race, finished second, and Flying Posse was third.

The first race of the night went to the seven-year-old mare Bayshore Blaze, who closed powerfully on the outside to catch the pace-setting Passport Denied and win by a length. Bayshore Blaze was sent off at odds of 5-1 in the ten-horse field of $5,000 claimers,

Bayshore Blaze is trained by Gary R. Welch and is a daughter of the 2002 West Virginia Derby winner, Wiseman’s Ferry. Bayshore Blaze’s final time for the five-furlong distance was a snappy :58.16.

It was the 40th career win for her jockey, Domingo Chacaltana, whose apprentice allowance was promptly reduced from seven to five pounds once the race was declared official.

Chacaltana, age 25, is from Lima, Peru. He likely won’t graduate to journeyman status until late in the Mountaineer season. He also won Saturday’s fifth race aboard the front-running, 9-10 favorite Tip Your Hat. The time for that five-furlong run for ‘nickel claimers’ was :57.86. Local handicappers believe Chacaltana bears watching. Agent Gary Patterson handles his book..

Indeed, race times throughout the night were stakes-caliber by Mountaineer standards. In the third race the 8-5 favorite, Jewelynamber, cruised the one-mile distance in 1:37.73. The four-year-old filly took the lead exiting the first turn, shook free from a duel with Feelsgoodonmylips and widened her margin to 9 lengths at the wire.

Ridden by Didiel Osorio for owner/trainer Pinzon, Jewelynamber was also competing for a $5,000 claiming tag, but was a powerhouse this night. She had been winless in four starts over Turfway Park’s synthetic surface this winter, but now has two victories and a placing in four career tries on Mountaineer’s dirt oval.

In 2013, there were 11 horses who returned $100 or more at Mountaineer for a two-dollar win mutuel. The first do it this season was the six-year-old gelding Three Square Meals, who in winning the seventh race on Saturday returned $108.80 under jockey Eddie Martin Jr. The final time for Three Square Meals in the one-mile allowance event was 1:37.48.

Interestingly, the horse who finished fifth in race seven was the 7-10 favorite Reflector, who campaigns for Art Preston. Back in 1998, Victory Gallop, co-owned by Preston and his brothers, nosed out Real Quiet in the Belmont Stakes thus denying the latter a Triple Crown sweep.

During the fourth race of the night, the three-year-old filly Syeshacat had a clear lead inside the quarter-pole, when she broke down. Her jockey, Terry D. Houghton, was taken to East Liverpool City Hospital. Houghton was fully conscious, but complaining of shoulder and back soreness, when he left the Mountaineer grounds.

Wagering from all sources on the nine-race card totaled $1,083,366, a 19.6% increase over the corresponding opening card in 2013.