Russell Road will try to overcome a two-month layoff as he aims for his third victory in the West Virginia Breeders' Classic as the 2-1 morning line favorite on the night of Oct. 20 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
At $500,000, the West Virginia Breeders' Classic is the most lucrative of nine races on an all-stakes program worth $1.345 million for horses bred or sired in the state. The headline event, around three turns at 1 1/8 miles, is the eighth on the card with a 10:45 p.m. EDT post. It immediately follows the $250,000 West Virginia Jefferson Security Bank Cavada Breeders' Classic for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.
Russell Road, who won last year's WV Classic by two lengths as the 6-5 pick for trainer James Casey, will have a full field of nine rivals to face this time. Mark E. Russell's 6-year-old son of Wheaton also won the race in 2009. He last raced Aug. 18, winning the seven-furlong Frank Gall Memorial at Charles Town by 3 1/4 lengths in front-running style.
Following his win in the Gall, Russell Road had some minor ailments, though Casey said the light schedule — the gelding has won three of four races in 2012 — is partially by design.
"We were debating racing in the prep anyhow," explained the patriarch of local breeding and racing operation Taylor Mountain Farm. "We wanted to race him lightly. We wanted one prep, and then run here but we were pointing to this race most importantly.
"I believe he's at top of his game," Casey added. I was talking to (owner) Mark (Russell) this morning, and I believe he is training and running better than he ever has before."
A win by Russell Road would push his career earnings to about $1.5 million, behind only Soul of the Matter ($2,302,818) on the list of highest earning West Virginia-breds of all-time. Russell Road has captured 21 of 32 starts at his home track and has finished in the money 28 times.
Luis Perez, who rode Russell Road to his 2011 West Virginia Breeders' Classic win, is once again in the saddle. They will break from post 3 with 122 pounds.
His prime competition could come from the youngest horse in the field, 3-year-old Lucy's Bob Boy, who is 7-2 on the morning line.
Trained by Sandra Dono, Lucy's Bob Boy has reeled off five straight wins after a pair of runner-up efforts to start the 2012 campaign. In his lone start against older horses, a win in an Aug. 19 allowance, the Flatter gelding defeated Strawberry Cupcake by 4 1/4 lengths. That win looked even better when Strawberry Cupcake subsequently won the Roger Ramey Handicap — the final local prep for the Breeders' Classic — in his next start.
Dono chose the main event over the the $85,000 West Virginia Lottery Breeders' Classic restricted to sophomores.
"It wasn't tough at all," Dono said of the decision. "I think we have the best 3-year-old and it is time to prove it. We gradually brought him to this point with a purpose."
Lucy's Bob Boy, owned by Michael Furr, has yet to answer the distance question. All of his previous nine starts, including seven wins and two seconds, have come at 4 1/2 to 7 furlongs.
"This may be the only thing we have against us. We have to prove ourself, but he is bred to go long," Dono said.
Gustavo Larrosa, who has ridden Lucy's Bob Boy in all seven of his career wins, will have the mount once again. They have the outside post and will receive a four-pound allowance under weight-for-age conditions.
Baer's Racing Stable's Son of a Bear is back for a second crack in the WVBC after tiring to eighth last year. The 5-year-old Bowman's Band gelding has been first or second in six of eight starts this year, including two wins. Now trained by David Walters, Son of a Bear is coming off a fourth-place finish in a handicap event Sept. 22. The 9-2 shot has been winless in six tries at over a mile in his career.
Kendrick Carmouche rides Son of a Bear in the Breeders' Classic.
Trainer Jeff Runco hopes to add his fourth victory in the Breeders' Classic with Sea Rescue (12-1), who won the 2010 Breeders' Classic at odds of 57-1, and Fred High (10-1), fourth in last year's race.
Fast Break Racing Stable's Black Belt (8-1), looking for his first win of 2012, has finished second and third respectively in the last two Breeders' Classics for trainer Gerald Bennett. He was third behind the favorite in the Frank Gall.
Allegheny Jack, Figpenn, Lively Reparations, and Rummy's Command are also entered. Silver Tie Affair, Swinging Bernie, Luca's Wind Dancer, and Vivo are on the also eligible list.
A race before the Breeders' Classic, 7-year-old Silver Heart will attempt to repeat in the Jefferson Security Bank Cavada Breeders' Classic. Owner/breeder Nancy L. Terhune and trainer Gary Capuano, who also teamed to win the race in 2010 with Silver Heart's full sister Aspenglow, will be looking for their third consecutive win in the race. Travis Dunkelberger is aboard the daughter of Lion Hearted , the 3-1 second choice.
Favored at 7-5 is Down Town Allen, who faded to sixth in last year's race after setting the pace. The 5-year-old Windsor Castle mare is bred, owned, and trained by John Casey. She comes into the race off back-to-back stakes wins at Charles Town, where she has won 12 of 25 lifetime starts.
$500,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic Stakes (Race 8, 10:45 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Allegheny Jack (WV), T L Dunkelberger, 122, C W Grove, 12/1
2. Black Belt (WV), T D Houghton, 122, G S Bennett, 8/1
3. Russell Road (WV), L A Perez, 122, J W Casey, 2/1
4. Son of a Bear (WV), K Carmouche, 122, D Walters, 9/2
5. Figpenn (WV), J Navarro, 118, O L Figgins III, 15/1
6. Lively Reparations (WV), C L Castro, 122, J H Starkey, 15/1
7. Rummy's Command (WV), D Feliciano, 122, D T Blankenship, 10/1
8. Fred High (WV), J D Acosta, 122, J C Runco, 10/1
9. Sea Rescue (WV), J Montano, 122, J C Runco, 12/1
10. Lucy's Bob Boy (WV), G Larrosa, 118, S A Dono, 7/2
11. Silver Tie Affair (VA), F Z Maysonett, 122, H Elamri, 15/1
12. Swinging Bernie (WV), V Lebron, 122, M J Maker, 15/1
13. Luca's Wind Dancer (WV), L C Reynolds, 122, T C Grams, 15/1
14. Vivo (WV), G Larrosa, 122, A K Grigsby, 20/1