A longshot winner at Mountaineer

CHESTER – Baseball scoreboards have been known to shoot off fireworks when a home team player hits a home run. If racetrack tote boards did the same, there would have been a display akin to a July 4th celebration at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort on Friday evening.

In the ninth race, a $22,200 optional claiming event at the one-mile distance, the 4-year-old gelding Naif took the lead shortly after exiting the starting gate. At odds of 110.80-1, he was by far the longest shot in the field of nine.

But, under jockey Manuel Rosario, Naif remained in front through the opening quarter; and through the opening half; and through the opening three-quarters of a mile. With just a furlong to go, Naif maintained a three-length advantage.

He was tiring, though. And the 4-1 shot Do the Math was closing on Naif on the outside. As was the 26-1 shot Restructuring Plan on the inside. Rosario made liberal use of a right-handed whip as Naif manfully strained to reach the wire.

But in a photo, Do the Math finished a head in front, with Naif finishing second and Restructuring Plan third.

At that point, things got a touch complicated. The Mountaineer stewards posted the “Inquiry” sign on the tote board, and a pair of jockeys claimed foul. All of the activity involved Do the Math, who had bore in and appeared to impede Restructuring Plan at the sixteenth pole.

After deliberating for about 12 minutes, the stewards disqualified Do the Math to third position – a decision which also rendered Naif the victor. He returned $223.60 for a two-dollar win mutuel, a record for Mountaineer this season. And Naif returned $106.40 for a two-dollar place mutuel, which is a Mountaineer record for this season as well.

The payoff of $1,729.80 for a two-dollar perfecta ticket wasn’t a seasonal record. That still belongs to a pair of long shots named Divine Doris and Leni’s Joy, who returned $1,745.40 in the first race on Nov. 10.

However, Naif’s triumph along with the victory by the 7-2 shot Southern Twister in Friday’s 10th race made for a late daily double payoff of $1,658.60. It was more than twice what the prior seasonal high at Mountaineer, set on Sept. 16.

What circumstances would influence bettors to dismiss a horse at 110.80-1 odds? Determining the reasons is an inexact science. Naif raced on Friday for a $15,000 claiming tag. It was his first start in four months.

As Mark Patterson noted on Mountaineer’s in house handicapping show, Naif was taking “a triple jump in class” on Friday. But the gelding had a new trainer, Walter F. Bish. He was being ridden by a jockey, Rosario, who had never been aboard him in a race before. And Naif had already registered a pair of career wins at the one-mile distance.

Bred in Kentucky, Naif had fetched a $5,000 auction price as a yearling and a $35,000 auction price at age 2. He began his racing career Belmont Park, Laurel Park and Monmouth, and had broken his maiden at Penn National by 10 lengths – in a race where Dana G. Whitney, a former multiple-time Mountaineer riding champ, was aboard him.

Overall, Naif’s career resume doesn’t look bad. Twenty-three starts; four wins; eight placings; and purse earnings of $63,925. Prior to Friday, he had never been sent away at triple-digit odds.

His sire, Kafwain, was a Grade 2 and Grade 3 winner and placed multiple times in Grade 1 company (he finished second in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile). Naif’s dam, Scootin Dana, was 0-for-19 at the races. She couldn’t run a lick.

Naif is the 10th horse at Mountaineer this year to return $100 or more for a two-dollar win ticket, in 1,932 races.