James Casey considered the product that had grown on his West Virginia soil and offered this conclusion: All Taylor Mountain needed was a little more dirt.
Taylor Mountain went into Charles Town's $125,000 Breeders Classic Saturday night as defending champion, though with armor somewhat tattered. He hadn't won a lesser race in eight tries this year, but Casey -- who bred, raised and owns him -- passed it off with the wave of a hand. Taylor Mountain hadn't run fast enough because he hadn't run far enough, Casey said.
In his first distance race of the year, Taylor Mountain took the lead from favored Gentle Is The Nite the second time through the backstretch, surged to a two-length advantage and held it to win the Classic, Charles Town's richest race and the anchor of the West Virginia Breeders Classics.
The first repeat winner of the Classic, Taylor Mountain also is the only horse with three Breeders victories. He took a $25,000 race in 1988, the second year of the program.
Taylor Mountain again ended a yearlong winless streak in the Classic, which now has provided about $113,000 of his $161,000 earnings. His run from next-to-last place -- which began from Post 9 in a field of 10 -- was well engineered by Lillian "Mich" Kuykendall, the nation's leading female rider in races won. Although a 10-year veteran, Kuykendall never had won so much as a $25,000 race. She revised that Saturday, winning the night's second-richest race as well with Stacy's Rippon, that purse worth $35,000.
A 5-year-old son of Dancing Czar, Taylor Mountain gave James and Eleanor Casey their fifth victory over the four-year program, most for any breeder. John McKee was the only breeder with two victories Saturday, those produced by Rachel's Turn (2-year-old fillies) and I'llbealongintime (3-year-old fillies), whom Luigi Gino had claimed for $12,000 at Laurel in February. Hers was the most demonstrative triumph of the evening, a 14-length debacle that would have been larger had jockey Alberto Delgado not restrained her late.
A Fur Piece improved to 2-0 in the Classics with his upset of Ara Russell in a race for 3-year-olds. Ara Russell, heaviest favorite of the night at 2-5 odds, was ridden aggressively to the lead but began to submit near the far turn. A Fur Piece, who had won last year's race for juveniles, defeated Ara Russell by two lengths.
The nine-race card, patterned after the Maryland Million, brought a crowd of 7,943. Although it was the largest for the four Classics, the handle of $794,897 was the smallest.
In one of the three races not restricted to West Virginia blood, trainer Jim Woods won a stakes race in his first attempt as Bolting Holme took the $15,000 Sam Palumbo Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths. Bolting Holme, 8, had missed nearly three years of racing with an injured foreleg -- even taking a year of stud duty -- before resuming his career in 1990. Saturday's victory was his 10th in 16 starts this year.