Mark Russell's popular 8-year-old gelding Russell Road, who hadn't won since May, turned the tables on heavy favorite Lucy's Bob Boy to win the West Virginia Breeders' Classic Oct. 18 for the third time in his career. It was his 28th career win (VIDEO).
The $450,000 Classic, the richest state-bred race in the United States, was the centerpiece of a nine-race stakes program for West Virginia-breds at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The program, created by National Football League Hall of Famer and Thoroughbred owner Sam Huff, was inaugurated in 1987.
Russell Road, trained by James W. Casey and ridden by Jose Montano, had the outside post in a 10-horse field in the 1 1/8-mile race around three turns, while Lucy's Bob Boy, winner of his past three starts and a previous winner of the West Virginia Breeders' Classic, broke from post 8 under Arnaldo Bocachica.
The Classic turned into a two-horse race. Lucy's Bob Boy, at 1-2 odds, headed into the first turn with the lead, with 9-2 shot Russell Road just to his outside; the leader never got a breather, which ended up making the difference in deep stretch.
Lucy's Bob Boy set a good pace of :24.03 for the opening quarter- mile, :47.99 for the half-mile, 1:12.76 for six furlongs, and 1:38.71 for one mile. The Flatter gelding appeared to rebuff Russell Road on the final turn and opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage, but Russell Road cut into the margin and surged late to win by a half length in 1:53.85.
"I'm more tired than he is," Russell said jokingly as he waited for Russell Road to return to the winner's circle.
Russell Road paid $11.40, $3.20, and $2.20 across the board, while Lucy's Bob Boy returned $2.20 and $2.20. Fred High, who won the Classic last year, rallied for third and was worth $3.40 to show while finishing 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner. The $2 exacta paid $30 and the $2 trifecta $114.40.
By Wheaton out of the Verification mare Roberta Gump, Russell Road has won 23 of 41 starts at Charles Town. His career line stands at 28-12-5 in 53 starts while earning $1,903,234. Robert Lloyd bred the chestnut gelding.
Russell earlier said he believed Lucy's Bob Boy would be too tough to beat given his recent form. The favorite certainly ran his race, but just couldn't hold on as Bocachica dropped the right rein in deep stretch while switching sticks.
"I'm speechless," Russell said. "This guy is just so special to me. He has been an inspiration for all of us at the barn because he lays it down all the time. It was an uphill climb against Lucy's Bob Boy but if you put Russell Road up there early he gives you all he has."
"He has a big heart," said Montano, who has ridden Russell Road five times this year. "I definitely wanted to put pressure on Lucy's Bob Boy. The horse felt strong and comfortable."
Russell said he will talk to Casey, who has had health issues and wasn't on hand for the Classic, to decide the next course of action for Russell Road, who will be 9 next year.
"He could race again this year, but maybe we'll call this a year," Russell said. "It's a pretty good note to stop on if we so choose. Hopefully he'll come back next year if he's willing to compete at this level."
A race earlier, odds-on choice Down Town Allen captured the $180,000 West Virginia Jefferson Security Bank Cavada Breeders' Classic, which attracted a field of seven older fillies and mares going seven furlongs.
Ridden by Mathew McGowan, Down Town Allen led from start to finish to prevail by three-quarters of a length at 3-10 odds. The 7-year-old daughter of Windsor Castle out of the Roy mare Like Down Town was timed in 1:26.55 and returned $2.60 to win.
John Casey trains, bred, and owns the bay mare. She posted her 24th lifetime win (23 coming at Charles Town) from 40 starts and extended her earnings to $998,787.