Showing the heart to match his talent, Still Having Fun overcame a slow start from his rail post to run down stubborn longshot pacesetter Old Time Revival and emerge from a three-way photo finish with a gutsy neck triumph in the $100,000 Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds on a snowy Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 23rd running of the one-mile Miracle Wood presented by B&B Commercial Interiors was the second of four supporting stakes on an 11-race Winter Carnival program highlighted by the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie (G2) and $250,000 General George (G3).
Completing the undercard stakes were the $100,000 John B. Campbell presented by Ourisman of Clarksville and $100,000 Maryland Racing Media for older horses, and the $100,000 Wide Country presented by Fidelty First & Blackwell Real Estate for 3-year-old fillies
The Miracle Wood was the second straight stakes victory for Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Terp Racing’s Laurel-based Still Having Fun ($4), sent off as the even-money favorite in a field of seven sophomores. It was the just the fourth career start and first beyond seven furlongs for Still Having Fun, who completed the distance in 1:37.51 over a good main track.
“He’s just taking a while to kind of figure everything out. The first couple races have been, I don’t want to say easy for him, but today he had to overcome breaking slow and the rail, and this was a tough race for him. This was his hardest race,” winning trainer and co-breeder Tim Keefe said. “He had to really run to make up that extra ground and to overcome those things.
“It’s still a process. He’s still very immature. He’s still learning. Physically he’s changing still so hopefully there’s still more to go with him,” he added. “We always knew he had [heart]. I’ve always said that you can’t teach that in a horse, the desire to want win, and he really has that. He has the ability and the desire to really want to win.”
Still Having Fun was sluggish from the gate as Old Time Revival, beaten 13 lengths by Still Having Fun in the Frank Whiteley Jr. Jan. 27, sprinted to the front to take the field through fractions of 23.41 seconds, 46.94 and 1:11.66, stalked closest by Whiteley runner-up Wentz.
Old Time Revival remained in control after straightening for home with Wentz turning up the pressure to his outside. Still Having Fun gathered stride under regular rider Feargal Lynch and steadily gained ground along the inside for their drive to the second wire.
“The whole thing about this race today was to get him to settle. Stepping up from seven furlongs, we needed to find out [about his ability to get a distance],” Lynch said. “He was a little keen down the backside but I had a great trip the whole way. I always had a lot of horse. Once you set him down he knows what to do.”
Wentz finished third by a neck, and it was 7 ¼ lengths back to stakes winner He Hate Me in fourth followed by V.I.P. Code, Dynamic Asset and Oldfashioned Club.
Keefe said the $100,000 Private Terms at 1 1/16 miles March 17 at Laurel is a possibility for Still Having Fun’s next start.
“That’s what I’m thinking, but I always like to wait a little bit. I’ll talk with Adam and Gary and Jimmy and make the decision,” he said. “We’ve purposely tried to keep him here. It’s much easier, obviously, when you can walk right out of your stall. I think he got everything he needed to get out of a race today. I don’t see the sense in having to ship him somewhere to do what he can do right here. I’m thinking that’s probably going to be our philosophy moving forward, but I’ll talk to the guys and see what they want to do.”