By T. D. Thornton
An Aug. 8 Mountaineer Park race in which a 4-5 favorite with $26,500 in “bridge jump” show bets is under investigation by the West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC) after the mare lagged in hand while last for most of the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, then drifted some 10 paths wide off the turn and into the stretch before being encouraged late to finish fifth.
“We’re investigating it. I can’t tell you any more than what you’ve seen on the replays at this point. We’re looking into it,” WVRC executive director Joe Moore confirmed via phone on Friday while declining to answer specific questions about the race in question.
Utana (Curlin), a 5-year-old West Virginia-bred mare who just last month had been racing on the southern California circuit, won her July 24 Mountaineer debut by 8 1/4 lengths at 3-10 odds for owners Clark Brewster and Barry Ostrager. When the Loren Cox trainee was entered back in a state-bred NW3L allowance Wednesday, second-leading Mountaineer jockey Charle Oliveros had the return call, and when the race went off, his mount was 1-9 in the betting.
Utana broke sixth in the field of seven, but that’s not unusual considering she usually closes from off the pace. As she settled back to last without being prompted to engage though, Utana’s odds drifted noticeably upward, to 4-5.
At the midway point on the turn, Utana began drifting too, and the head-on replay showed Oliveros remaining mostly still with his upper body as the mare fanned ever wider while still in last place.
The Equibase chart summarized Utana’s stretch run as “10 wide in upper stretch [and] showing interest well after the fact.”
Mountaineer announcer Peter Berry posted on Twitter after the race that “Oliveros told stewards he worked her four days ago and she got out badly on the turn, as she did tonight.”
Utana, however, shows no published workouts since shipping to Mountaineer.
The Mountaineer stewards could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon. TDN could not locate a working phone number for Oliveros.