CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Nice Ainit drew off to a 1 1/2 -length victory in the $200,000 Kamora Classic at the Charles Town Races last night, keeping West Virginia's biggest race all in the family.
"It feels very good to keep it that way," said James M. Casey, who trains the gelding for his younger brother, owner John Casey.
The previous two years, Taylor Mountain won the Kamora Classic for the Casey's parents, Eleanor and James W. Casey.
Nice Ainit, a 3-year-old gelding, steadily drew off midway through the 1 1/8 -mile race after racing close to the pace. Aye There, a 35-1 shot, edged Tropical Society for second, and Rogers Marcy, another James M. Casey trainee, ran fourth.
Ara Russell, the 9-5 favorite, tired to finish seventh. Taylor Mountain, trying for a third straight, was never close after breaking sluggishly, and Gentle is the Nite, a Maryland invader and second choice, was also not a factor.
Lillian "Mich" Kuykendall rode Nice Ainit, a 7-1 shot, marking her second straight win in the race.
The Kamora Classic, increased from last year's value of $125,000, was the richest race in the track's 58-year history. It is the centerpiece of the six-race, $340,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classics, a series modeled after the Maryland Million that limits eligibility to horses sired, foaled or raised in West Virginia.
Five Breeders' Classics co-features, all sponsored events, preceded the Kamora.
Coin Collector, a romping stakes winner in Maryland earlier this year, easily won a $25,000 race for 2-year-old males with Kuykendall up. He is also owned by John Casey and trained by James M. Casey.
Coin Collector had handy excuses if he failed as the 2-5 favorite in the 6 1/2 -furlong race. Racing on six days' rest, he was off slowly, had to race wide on the first turn of the 6-furlong oval, then stayed wide on the second turn before edging away. He then survived an objection by Romulo Quezada, who rode runner-up E.B.F. Express.
Doris B.G., perfect in three prior starts, did not fare so well at 2-5 in the $25,000, 2-year-old filly sprint. Noble's Honey, a New York castoff, caught her in the final strides, and to compound the loss, Doris B.G. was disqualified to third for a bumping incident after finishing second.
Trainers Victor Espinosa Sr. and Robert C. Lee had profitable evenings. Espinosa sent out Angel of Honour to win the $25,000 event for 3-year-old fillies after winning with Noble's Honey. And in the several minutes it took a photo-finish camera to determine Medieval Prospect a narrow winner over Me No Sissy in the $25,000 race for 3-year-old males, Lee had no worries -- he trains them both.
In the $35,000 race for older fillies and mares, Nathans Joy held off a sustained bid from Three Ring Circus to win by nearly a length.
NOTES: West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton presented the winner's trophy for the Governor's Cup, the first of three unrestricted events on the 9-race program. . . . Medieval Prospect, winner of the 2-year-old race last year by disqualification, was the series' only repeat winner. . . . James M. Casey started his career at Charles Town before moving his stable to Laurel Race Course three years ago. . . . William Lewis Jr. rode both of Espinosa's winners. . . . ESPN provides taped coverage of the Classics tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. . . . Charles Town doesn't bother trying to compete with Monday night games when the Washington Redskins are playing. Instead, the track is offering simulcasts of the full Belmont Park card on those Monday afternoons, including this Monday. . . . Last night's attendance of 6,851 was under the Breeders' Classics mark (7,943) set in 1990, and the handle was on a par to fall short of the 1988 mark ($941,482).