Opening night at Playfair Race Course always brings out the best in the Warthens, Bob and Evelyn, and their horses.
Particularly Hope’s Rullah.
Hope’s Rullah won on opening night for the fourth consecutive year Wednesday night, again confounding the wagering public who sent him off at a longish 7-1.
It doesn’t matter who rides the 8-year-old gelding when he’s fresh, and when he’s here. He likes the lead but he has learned to stalk the pace.
This time in the feature, the Inaugural Purse for $8,000 claimers running for a $3,400 purse, he did it with patience, heart and some racing luck.
“I’m not surprised that he went off at 7-1,” trainer Bob Warthen said. “I thought he was in pretty tough company myself.”
The tough company out of the gate were co-favorites Stubble on the rail and Extreme Edge. They dueled into the first turn before Stubble and jockey Vince Ward drifted out of the tight turn and took Extreme Edge with them.
Stubble finished last, Extreme Edge next-to-last.
When the front-runners fell off the pace, jockey Darrell Brinkerhoff on Hope’s Rullah was content to let Storm Road have the lead.
Storm Road gave way heading into the far turn with a quarter-mile to go. Hope’s Rullah took over, stretched out comfortably but had to hold off a charging Ought To Burn to win by three-quarters of a length.
The Hope’s Rullah-Ought To Burn $2 exacta ticket was worth $124.60. A $2 win bet on Hope’s Rullah returned $17.40.
It was the 14th win for Hope’s Rullah in 44 outs at Playfair. He has run in the money in 27 of those Spokane races.
“I always thought he liked the girls,” Evelyn Warthen said. “Brenda Hannah rode him before, but she’s not here this year. We missed out on Lane (Rennaker) but we got Brinkerhoff, who’s a good rider. And he did a super job. There was definitely some speed in that raced.”
Th Warthens of Missoula, Mont., lease Hope’s Rullah from owners Floyd and Anna Mae Cheff of Missoula.
“We just trained him for them until this last year, when we took him on a lease basis,” Mrs. Warthen said. “Having him win sets off the season just perfectly.”
The Warthens sprung an earlier surprise, sending out Wake’s Choice to thrash a field of 2-year-old maiden fillies in the first race. A $2 win ticket on Wake’s Choice returned $27.
They made it three for three when their horse in the 10th, Naive Session, ran down Funnymoney Habit to win by a nose.
“Just good oats and hay I guess,” Warthen said by way of explanation.
Naive Session gave Rennaker his fourth win of the night and Wentz heads into Friday night’s racing program second in the jockey standings with two wins.
The betting handle was $345,143, up from last year’s opening-night wagering total of $167,709. But that was a Friday night in July, without state-wide simulcasting, making it tough to compare. A total of $127,825 was wagered at Playfair.
Spokane attendance was 2,638.
Racing resumes Friday night at 6.