Russell had planned to enter the all-time West Virginia-bred money-earner in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Aug. 3 but believed it would come up too tough. He opted for the $100,000 Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes at six furlongs–and saw classy sprinter Gentlemen's Bet entered.
Gentlemen’s Bet, however, was cross-entered in the Aug. 4 Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course and scratched from the Mountaineer stakes the morning of the race.
"The $200,000 race looked like it would be stronger," Russell said. "And we figured Gentlemen’s Bet would go at Saratoga."
It worked out perfectly. But Russell Road didn’t cross the wire first in the Byrd Memorial.
"(Jockey Jose Montano) said he got shoved around pretty good by Jasizzle coming out of the gate,"Russell said.
The stewards agreed. Jasizzle led all the way to hold off a chasing Russell Road by almost eight lengths in a sharp 1:09.94 on a fast track, but was placed second for the incident leaving the gate.
Meanwhile, Russell Road, who paid $3.40 to win as the 7-10 choice in the field of five, earned another $63,000 to push his career earnings to $1,525,918 in 44 starts. He has eight seconds and four thirds to go along with the 26 wins, with much of his success coming in state-bred company at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
"He just loves doing what he does," Russell said of Russell Road. "This horse has been a real treat. I owe it all to my good friend Mr. Casey."
Russell Road entered the Byrd Memorial off a victory in the Independence Day Stakes at one mile at Mountaineer. The gelding has developed a knack of switching distances with ease; he can rate going long but battle early in sprints.
"You can make him do just about whatever you want," Russell said. "He's very handy."
Russell Road now has three wins and three seconds in six starts at Mountaineer.