Researcher took the Charles Town Classic for the second year in a row.

Researcher took the Charles Town Classic for the second year in a row.

Mike Montgomery/Charles Town

Another 'Classic' Victory by Researcher

Researcher made it two-for-two in the Charles Town Classic in West Virginia.

Kinross Corp.’s Researcher again played to the home crowd at Charles Town Races & Slots April 17 with a repeat victory in the Charles Town Classic (VIDEO), one of the richest races in the country for older horses with a purse of $1 million.

Trained at Charles Town by Jeff Runco, Researcher was sold to Kinross, which is owned by Zohar Ben-Dov, only five days before the Classic. He was previously owned by Rutledge Farm, which was owned by the late Hermen Greenberg. Both operations are based in Middleburg, Va.

Interestingly, Researcher most likely is headed to a new career as a steeplechase horse. Ben-Dov previously had purchased a horse from Rutledge that went on to become a steeplechase champion.

The Classic, like most races on the card, was quickly run on a fast track. Researcher had a home field advantage, having won multiple times at the 1 1/8-mile distance around three turns.

Jockey Luis Perez rated Researcher off a quick and contested pace of :23.43 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.75 for the half-mile, and 1:11.25 for six furlongs. He moved the 6-year-old gelding into contention between horses on the backstretch the second time, and Researcher saved ground entering the final turn, ranged up to tackle Redding Colliery near the top of the stretch, drew clear and held off late-closing Awesome Gem by 1 3/4 lengths.

Final time was 1:49.94, a bit off the record of 1:49.76 set by Researcher last year. Researcher paid $9.80 to win as the third choice in a field of 10.

West Point Thoroughbreds' Awesome Gem, who shipped from California for the Classic, made up a ton of ground to land the second spot by three-quarters of a length. Redding Colliery, who dueled throughout, held well for third. Indian Dance rallied for fourth.

Neil Morris, private trainer for Ben-Dov, said Kinross heard about Rutledge Farm’s plans to sell horses after Greenberg died in February. He said he told Ben-Dov that Researcher was the “obvious first choice—top of the pyramid.”

“He said to get it done, and we did,” Morris said. “Yes, it was a quick return (on the investment).”

Morris said Researcher, a Virginia-bred by Two Smart, may race one or two more times before taking a break. After that, the plan is to train him for the jumps.

On hand was Aleco Bravo-Greenberg, son of Hermen Greenberg who brought a large group to Charles Town to cheer on Researcher. Hermen Greenberg was at Charles Town last year when Researcher won the inaugural Classic.

“My father is up there smiling,” Bravo-Greenberg said. “This is a dream come true for my father.”

Runco said the race "turned out kind of the way we figured. When he turned for home, with the way I know him, I thought we've got a heck of a shot tonight."

"It helped me to get him inside and settle him down," Perez said of his mount. "I was pretty confident turning for home."

Said West Point Thoroughbreds' president Terry Finley: "(Awesome Gem ran a great race, but I'm happy for the winners. We are friends with Jeff (Runco), and Researcher is such a good horse--especially here."

Total handle on the Classic was $648,005, a single-race record for the West Virginia racetrack.

The track record for seven furlongs came close to being rewritten twice on the undercard.

In the co-featured $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes for fillies and mares, Flintridge Stable and STD Stable’s Pinkarella (by Malibu Moon ) won in 1:23.38 for trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Travis Dunkelberger. The $100,000 Blue and Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds went to Peter Redekop’s Comedero (by Posse), who won in 1:23.45 for trainer Mike Stidham and jockey Robby Albarado.

The seven-furlong record of 1:23.29 was set by P. Kerney in 2006.

In the $50,000 Springtime Handicap for West Virginia-bred 4-year-olds and up, Mark Russell’s Russell Road (by Wheaton) collected his 12th career victory at Charles Town. Ridden by Dunkelberger for trainer James Casey, Russell Road stalked the front-running Beware of the Bop throughout and edged clear late to win in 1:24.67 for seven furlongs.

Beware of the Bop (by Bop), the lone filly in the field, ran lights out and held well for second. She has 11 wins in 18 career starts at Charles Town.

Russell Road was nominated to the Charles Town Classic but took a pass and opted for the state-bred race. Casey said the 4-year-old gelding probably wouldn’t race away from Charles Town this year.