CHESTER - A well-bred filly with a quick turn of foot will take on male opponents in tonight's feature at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
Her name is Nightofsolance, and she will break from the five-post in the $85,000 Sophomore Sprint Championship, a six-furlong event for 3-year-olds that culminates the Mountaineer 2012 stakes schedule.
Nightofsolance has made seven career starts. Five have come at Mountaineer, where she has gained her four career wins. Her only defeat at the Hancock County track occurred in mid-July of this year, when she finished second by three-quarters of a length. In her most recent start, on Sept. 30, Nightofsolance was a 2-length winner.
LOOKING FOR A WIN — Nightofsolance drew off to a clear win in allowance company at Mountaineer on Sept. 30.
-- Coady Photography
She exited the starting gate a prohibitive 1-2 favorite in that race. For the Sophomore Sprint Championship, Nightofsolance's morning line odds are 10-1 in the eight-horse field.
"But the way she's training right now, she can compete with these guys," said her owner and trainer, Luis A. Jurado. "She's going to run a big race."
Bred in Kentucky by Overbrook Farm, Nightofsolance is by the sire Officer, who was a Grade 1 winner on the track and now stands in South Korea.
Nightofsolance's dam, Gently, is a daughter of Storm Cat, quite arguably the world's most prominent sire during the past quarter-century.
Officer was trained by the three-time Eclipse Award winner and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Gently, who registered a maiden score and thrice placed in allowance company, was trained by the four-time Eclipse Award winner and hall-of-famer D. Wayne Lukas. To date, Jurado has eight career wins. But he abounds with ambition.
Jurado purchased Nightofsolance at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
"I was walking around the barns with my wife, Guadalupe, and I saw this little filly with a great pedigree," he said. "I told my wife, 'Boy, I'd love to get my hands on her.'
"The filly goes into the auction ring, and I was prepared to bid as high as $30,000," said Jurado. "I ended up getting her for $4,500. We took her home to our 10-acre farm in Midway, Ky., and did our initial training there. We don't have a training track, but we do have some big fields where our horses can gallop around."
Nightofsolance made her career debut in a 5-furlong maiden allowance this past April at Mountaineer. She broke last in the field of 10 and trailed by 13 lengths through the opening half-mile. But, racing eight-wide down the stretch, she rallied to win in a photo-finish.
In May, Nightofsolance made it two-for-two at Mountaineer. She subsequently finished unplaced on the synthetic surface in a stakes at Arlington Park and in an optional claiming turf race at Churchill Downs. But Nightofsolance has since competed solely on Mountaineer's dirt oval, where she has been nothing short of formidable.
Jurado, age 38, is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. He wife was born in Los Angeles, where her father, Filemon P. Rodriguez, was a longtime assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham. Rodriguez now assists Jurado.
"He's knows this game," Jurado said.
The conditioning of weanlings and yearlings constituted Jurado's early employment in the racing business. During the past decade, he took an eight-year hiatus, "so my wife and I could make enough money to get back into it as owners," he said.
They founded their own drywell and trucking companies. They worked hard. And they now have 19 horses in training, "some that we fully own, some that we co-own," Jurado said.
Antonio Lopez Castanon rode Nightofsolance in her most recent effort, and will be aboard the filly again in the Sophomore Sprint Championship. Castanon's tenure as a jockey spans 30 years, most of which have been spent at West Coast tracks.
Castanon has 60 career stakes victories. The two most prominent are with Galba in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds in 1989; and with Frumius in this year's edition of the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita.
Jurado has never won a stakes. He believes, however, that Nightofsolance is about to change that status. And Jurado has other targets in sight. This coming Saturday, his six-year-old gelding, Precious Chaos, will make his career debut - an effort that will also take place at Mountaineer. "I think he'll win easily," Jurado said.